Singapore surpasses China as Myanmar’s biggest investor

Singapore has overtaken China as the country’s main source of foreign investment in 2019, according to data from the Ministry of Investment and Foreign Economic Relations.

At a meeting on streamlining investment in Nay Pyi Taw last week, U Aung Naing Oo, the ministry’s permanent secretary, said, “The top investor in Myanmar through December 2018 was China, but Singapore has overtaken it since January.”

The other top investors were Thailand, Hong Kong, the United Kingdom, Korea, Vietnam, Malaysia, the Netherlands, Japan, India, France, the United States, Indonesia and Canada.

U Aung Naing Oo said that some investors from Singapore may not be Singaporean but are based in the island-nation. Many companies investing in Myanmar from Singapore are multinationals that set up regional headquarters in the Lion City.

Singapore has easy access for businesses, a good banking system and is a member of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, of which Myanmar is also a member.

U Aung Naing Oo also noted an increasing number of investments coming from the UK, despite the fact that London has accused Myanmar of human rights abuses against Muslims in Rakhine State.

In fiscal 2018-2019, which started on October 1 and ended in April (seven months), the Myanmar Investment Commission approved foreign investment plans worth US$2.5 billion, U Aung Naing Oo said.

But he admitted that foreign investments in the country have been declining for the past four years.

Local and foreign economists said political instability in the country, such as the Rakhine humanitarian crisis, as well as business and investment policy issues have spooked many potential investors.

They said many investors have opted to invest instead in nearby Thailand, Vietnam and Cambodia, where the business climate is more favourable and investment policies are clear.

U Thant Zin Lwin, acting director general of the Directorate of Investment and Company Administration, said the government has been finding ways to make it easier for foreign investors to come to the country.

He noted that in 2016, parliament enacted a new investment law and relaxed regulations on land matters.

“In the past, it was required to show a distinct (land) grant. Sometimes, not even the copy but also the original grant had to be submitted. Now the regulations are not that strict. We approve a proposal even if there is no solid proof of land ownership and the land zoning change proposal is submitted to the Central Farmland Administration Committee,” he said.

U Thant Zin Lwin said that 40 percent of the approved investments for the fiscal year are for re-investments, which can be a good sign that investors who are already in the country are expanding their business.

“If the ones already here are satisfied, more will enter,” he said.

U Aung Naing Oo conceded that more needs to be done to improve the business climate in the country.

“As everyone knows, there are prohibitions and restrictions everywhere. These are impeding progress,” he said, adding that discussions are under way to relax the restrictions.

Source: Myanmar Times

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