Rakhine investment fair can pave way for JVs with foreign investors

The Rakhine State Investment Fair will be held at Ngapali beach in Thandwe, Rakhine Sate for three days from 21 to 23 February. The fair is aimed at generating individual job opportunities, increasing per capita income, regional development and improving the living standard. The following is the interview with Dr Htoo Min Thein, the secretary of Rakhine State Investment Committee, and the director of the Directorate of Investment and Company Administration, about the fair.

Q: Please tell me the goal of the fair.
A: Rakhine State government initiated the idea of holding an investment forum in the state. But further discussions had led to the holding of a fair, which will include forums, shows, exhibitions and study programs for the visitors. Normally, Myanmar Investment Commission lends a helping hand in holding any activity in connection with investment. It provided assistance in such kind of activities launched in Ayeyawady Region and Kayah State and in cities such as Mandalay and Taunggyi. The Government and the Myanmar Investment Commission are making joint-efforts to organize the fair.

Q: Its goal?
A: Rakhine State has several investment opportunities across multiple sectors. Many parts of Rakhine State are now connected to the national power grid, and that is good news for production businesses.
Another goal is that Rakhine State has a lot of tourist attraction. It has a number of beautiful beaches. In MraukU there are ancient cultural heritages. So, we want to promote tourism in those places. Jobs are scarce in the state, but this problem can be solved through investment programs, which will increase individual job opportunities, per capita income and living standards and enhance regional development.
Rakhine State is facing conflicts, but they are only in the northernmost parts, and have no effect on the state. So, we want to prove that the state has many peaceful and stable areas which are favourable for investments. A goal of the fair is to ensure the long-lasting peace, stability and progress in the state through investments.

Q: The possible developments the fair will bring to the state?
A: Prospects are bright that the fair will invite a lot of investments into the state. Outsiders have a wrong impression of the state. But if they come here, they will witness with their own eyes the peace and stability of the area. We hope that local and foreign investors will visit the fair, and they will find a large array of investment opportunities of the state.
According to the website entry register, 356 investors have enlisted in it to attend the fair up to 8 February. Of them 54 percent are foreigners. Diplomats, economic organizations, investors from abroad and the international media will partake in the fair. It is possible that the fair may attract more foreigners when compared with the previous ones.

Q: Who is the leading sponsor, the Union Government or the Rakhine State Government?
A: The state government, as it is an activity to expose and express the opportunities Rakhine State can offer. The fair includes forum, in which national level experts are the leading resource persons. The fair will hold three roundtable talks where national economic policies and those of the state will be presented, explained and discussed. Directors-general of the departments will hold sector-wise talks. We have arrangement for the deputy level officials of the Union to explained matters relating to Kyaukphyu special economic zone and deep seaport.

Q: Which country shows the greatest interest in the fair?
A: Of the countries, the majority are from Thailand and Japan. In addition to Asian countries, European countries are also included in the registered list. According to the list, diplomats from a number of countries will also attend the fair.

Q: Which sectors may have advantages for investments?
A: The sectors we would like to promote will have more advantages. Farming sector may become the priority sector because the state has vast areas of virgin and vacant land. But we need technology and capital. Interested investors can conduct contract farming with locals. We are operating fish and prawn farms through old methods. So our production is low. The involvement of high-tech international companies in the business will mutually serve the interest of both sides. Agriculture, livestock breeding and aquatic farming are the priority sectors of the government.
The manufacturing sector is also included in the priority list. The state has only few industries. We also invite the production sector, as many parts of the state have been electrified. Another is infrastructure. We invited a large volume of investors to the infrastructure development sector. We hope more investors will join the farming and hotels and tourism sectors.

Q: Please tell me about the investment program on Manaung Island.
A: Eco-tourism business has the brightest prospects in Manaung. The island has many untouched beaches. The government is also implementing an eco-tourism development plan on it. But Manaung still needs adequate power supply. Solar-power will be the main answer for it. So, we have invited the international solar power companies.
Currently, there are two business projects in Manaung which are allowed by the Rakhine State Investment Committee.
One is the organic-coconut-based cosmetics and foodstuff industry, and the other is a hotel business for eco-tourism. The access to Manaung is somewhat difficult. So, we are planning to extend its airport.

Q: The number and types of booth at the fair?
A: We expect there will be about 40 booths. But we will not categorize them. The fair will serve as a showcase of local products. Some want to make their products known internationally. There are major projects in Rakhine State. One is the land reclamation project for Sittway port. The contractor of the project will also set up its pavilion at the fair. Likewise, government departments will also open booths. The booth of the Ministry of Hotels and Tourism will disseminate knowledge of its changing policy. Booths of the energy sector will invite investments. There are no specific rules for the booths.

Q: What will be the benefits for the people of Rakhine and the nation?
A: There may be a lot of benefits for the locals because we hope more investments will come to the region. They will have access to technical knowhow, and there will be more jobs for them. The Rakhine issue has tarnished the country’s image. But the fair will change the international view of Myanmar. The fair will stand witness to the peaceful and stable situation of Rakhine State amidst the many visitors including diplomats of foreign missions and international businesspersons. They will understand the actual situation of Myanmar. In this way we can restore our international reputation.
The Rakhine State government will hold a photo contest under the theme “My beautiful Rakhine” at the same time. The photos of the contest will be used in the fair and put on the Internet. A visitor can see all the natural beauties of the state just by typing the word “Rakhine” on the Internet. So, it may be a much beneficial fair for the whole country.

Q: What are the future plans of your committee?
A: Internal and international investment may flow into country after the fair. There is the Myanmar Investment Commission as well as the Rakhine State Investment Committee. The Rakhine State Investment Committee deals with the projects whose investment is up to five million US dollars or 6,000 million kyats. The state commission will have to give priority to the new investment projects and ensure swift and perfect services for them.

Q: Any more comments?
A: It will be a place where visitors can witness the actual image of Rakhine State. Rakhine investment fair can pave way for JVs with foreign investors: The fair will be the place where MoUs can be signed. It will also serve as the venue where business organizations and persons can meet and set up contacts, reach mutual understanding and consent and sign MoUs. So the fair is very important for the whole Rakhne State as it may create brighter prospects for it.


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