Channel NewsAsia

Myanmar aims to increase foreign direct investment by 10% to US$3b

Myanmar is aiming to increase foreign direct investment by 10 per cent this year to around US$3 billion.

YANGON: Myanmar is aiming to increase foreign direct investment by 10 per cent this year to around US$3 billion.

It is targeting agriculture and tourism to lead the drive, according to Myanmar's Presidential Economic Advisor, Zaw Oo.

About 75 per cent of Myanmar's workforce is in agriculture, a key industry the government has prioritised for development.

It is hoping that the other pillar of future growth -- small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) -- will also receive its share of foreign investment.

Dr Zaw Oo said: "We are a resource-rich country. So we would definitely receive a lot of foreign investment that are interested to tap into our natural resources.

"But we will be very careful about managing these inflows into the resource sectors. What we want to promote more is investment flows into the SME sectors so that they can generate the labour-intensive manufacturing developments. That will be the long-term, sustainable factor for our economy to grow."

Myanmar has a long way to go to meet international standards, but new business-friendly laws and financial reform is underway.

Dr Zaw Oo said: "It's a matter of getting the policy right and encouraging the right kind of financial framework, and so the resources are already here. So I think we should be able to mobilise both the domestic and international resources to help the SME sector."

Observers are optimistic that Myanmar is on the right track if it stays the course of reform.

Michael Nesbitt, Myanmar editorial manager at Oxford Business Group, said: "I think
Myanmar has come too far to be derailed. The fact that it's going to be hosting the ASEAN chair in 2014 is not only a huge challenge but also a huge opportunity for the country.

“Inflation is a key one, unemployment rate is a key one. And with those, I'd like to see the government address tax collection more efficiently.

Kyaw Myo Htoon, managing director at Myanmar Pinnacle Financial, said: "They should set up educational programmes that will educate SME business owners throughout the country.

“They can utilise the existing current facilities like colleges and universities. They can open the night school and they can say if you come to this night school, if you get certificate, you can get financing from the government.”

Education is another key sector which the government should focus on developing this year.

Besides attracting huge investment dollars from education and training institutes to this largely untapped market, the government would also be able to help improve the educational standards of the people and upgrade the level of skills in the workforce to help complement the growth and development of money-making industries such as SMEs, for the future of the country.  

Tweet Photos, Videos and Update on this Story to  #cna