British lend a hand on governance

The United Kingdom aims to assist with developing corporate governance standards, holding a workshop at Yangon business association UMFCCI’s headquarters from November 18 to 20.

UK Ambassador Andrew Patrick said at the meeting’s launch that Myanmar is the fastest-growing economy in region, spurred on by its economic reforms, though he added that challenges remain.

Improvement in areas like the exchange rate, monetary policy, tax collection and the overall business and investment climate have spurred on growth, which the Asian Development Bank has targeted at 7.8 percent for the year.

Yet there are areas needing work. Governance standards will be vital to ensuring economic growth is strong, sustainable and equitable.

“One of the keys to attract international investment and capital is corporate governance,” said Mr Patrick.

The British government and Standard Chartered bank, Prudential Insurance and legal firm Allen & Overy founded the UK Financial Services Task Force in 2013. The task force aims to help develop the public and private sectors through training and advice.

Mr Patrick said British businesses are increasingly interested and active in the country, with many wanting local partners. Another key challenge is maximising these potential relationships by ensuring a shared understand and application of corporate governance.

U Aung Htun Thet, a presidential economic advisor, said local companies are still working on the concept of separating ownership and management. Improvements are also needed in areas like accountability, fairness, independence and transparency.

“The most important challenge we face in private sector development is corporate governance,” he said. “There are a lot of corporations among the companies here, but the real question is whether they have good corporate governance standards.”

With about 97pc of local businesses being small and medium enterprises, it is also important they are not ignored.

Foreign firms looking for a local joint venture partner will also be looking for responsible local businesses as partners, he added.


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