Myanmar’s private sector should be at the driving seat for reform

Businesses in the country are best-placed to be at the driving seat for reform, an expert said at a conference in Yangon. On a broader level, the human capital and capacity of employees which the private sector is well-positioned to develop are vital for Myanmar’s transition as a country.

Vicky Bowman, director of Yangon-based Myanmar Centre for Responsible Business (MCRB), stressed that human resources managers played an essential role in ensuring that their companies did business responsibly, since corporate governance is about what people do and why. Each element of what makes a responsible business – treating customers responsibly, not paying bribes etc – involves choices, informed or otherwise, by employees.

She was speaking at the Professional Development Conference, organised by Yangon-based LEARN Myanmar and Singaporean training firm Professionals Supremacy Corporation Pte Ltd on September 29 and 30. At the event, Myanmar’s lack of human capital was discussed by U Maung Maung Lay, Vice President of the UMFCCI, emphasising the need to address the problem urgently.

The MCRB director outlined the importance of having corporate governance systems, policies and training in place to ensure responsible business conduct. The Pwint Thit Sa/Transparency in Myanmar Enterprises benchmarking initiative rates company websites for the corporate governance information they publish, and was increasingly recognised by leading Myanmar companies as an important tool for them to be recognised for their efforts by actual/ potential business partners and investors.

Ms Bowman explained that this Pwint Thit Sa initiative to encourage disclosure and good corporate governance was aligned to the current direction of regulatory reform, particularly the new Investment Law, new Companies Act and the 2015 Law protecting the Rights of People with Disabilities.

To ensure that the voice of the private sector was heard in initiatives and regulatory reform relating to human resources, companies and their human resources directors should consider how to organise themselves on a more institutional basis, noting the recent establishment of the Myanmar Institute of Directors as well as the Myanmar Business Coalition for Gender Equality.

Finally, businesses in the country are – or ought to be – building human capital and developing their employees to be creative and critical thinkers, accountable leaders, good delegators, supporters of equality and respectful of difference. These are the skills necessary to run a successful modern business that can compete with the disruption of the 4th Industrial Revolution.

Since the private sector is driven by market pressures, Myanmar businesses have no choice but to reform and modernise. These market pressures are not felt by the civil service, military, political or religious leaders. Meanwhile, civil society and the media faces increasing constraints, limiting its ability to press for reform.

Crucially, the change management and leadership skills which are essential for commercial success are the same ones which are necessary to lead Myanmar through its ongoing and challenging “triple transformation” of peace, politics and economics. This means that businesses have a key role in nation-building. By helping employees to develop such skills, Ms Bowman argued, they are building the human capital and leaders needed for Myanmar to become a prosperous and democratic country.

Source: Myanmar Times

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