YANGON: The new Chief Minister of Myanmar's largest city, Yangon, has defended making hardline decisions such as suspending some construction projects and tightening regulations against drinking establishments.
Phyo Min Thein believes this will in fact help to establish more systematic processes to develop Yangon further.
Under this Yangon administration, Phyo Min Thein has outlined several key priorities to tackle over his five-year term. These include improving electricity supply to residents, rehousing more than 400,000 squatters and reducing floods in Myanmar's largest city.
Phyo Min Thein has been in office since Mar 30, but he does not have the luxury of taking time to settle into his role.
"We need to work on everything simultaneously," said Phyo Min Thein. “If we tackle one problem at a time, Myanmar will be left behind for many more years. We have to take 10 steps while others take one, so that we can be on par with the top countries in Southeast Asia."
To reach the development level of fellow ASEAN neighbours, Phyo Min Thein visited Singapore on a study mission recently and brought back some ideas. He wants to construct two hawker centres in Yangon to house food stalls and manage road congestion with a centralised traffic control station.
"My vision for Yangon is a city of modern development,” said Phyo Min Thein. "We’re trying to build a good foundation to achieve continuous development over the next 50 years, for the sake of our future generation."
But even as the Chief Minister goes about implementing his vision for the city, he is already being criticised for some of his actions. He has suspended around 70 high-rise construction projects to review them for possible regulation violations. Some say this may spook foreign investors.
But Phyo Min Thein disagrees because he believes that “investors are concerned about illegal practices" in Myanmar.
“They want the government to operate within the law and in fact they welcome our actions,” he said. "People will also support us once they start to realise that flouting regulations will not be good for the country and foreign investments."
It is an unenviable task to try and solve the many problems such as poor infrastructure and waste management in Yangon, which is home to around seven million people.
But the Chief Minister is determined and confident that his initial actions of cracking down on crime and illegal developments will help set the foundation for proper systems in place and attract investors to do business in the city.