Q&A: Myanmar’s search for direct foreign investment
Interview with U Aung Naing Oo, Director General, Directorate of Investment and Company Administration (DICA) and General Secretary, Myanmar Investment Commission (MIC)
(From KWR Advisor)
By Keith W. Rabin
Hello Director General U Aung Naing Oo, it is good to see you again. Before we begin, can you tell us about your background and how you came to serve at DICA and MIC?
After attending Mandalay University I joined the military in 1981. I served for 19 years before joining the civil service and Ministry of Commerce in 2000. At the Ministry I came to serve as Deputy Director General and was there for 11 years. In 2011 I transferred to the Ministry of National Planning in 2011 after formation of the last government to handle investment and to lead economic reforms in this area. Then in May 2012 I was appointed as Director General of DICA and have been here for four years. At the same time I serve as secretary of MIC.
Myanmar has been attracting a lot of attention from international investors due to its geostrategic location, its large base of resources, and the fact it has so much potential growth ahead of it. For those unfamiliar with Myanmar, how would you describe its attractions and the opportunities it offers?
Myanmar is a newly democratic nation of just over 50 million people in a country about the size of Texas. We are blessed with abundant human, physical and natural resources. Moreover, we are strategically located between China and India, the two most heavily populated countries in the world. We are also located within ASEAN and the newly formed ASEAN Economic Community (AEC), which is comprised of ten Southeast Asian nations covering more than 1.7 million square miles — with a population of 626 million and an economy valued at $2.4 trillion.
Given historical circumstances, Myanmar lagged our neighbors in economic performance – but we have begun to address our deficiencies and the IMF recently forecast that Myanmar will be the fasted growing economy in the world during 2016 – achieving an annual growth rate of 8.6%. This is at least partially due to our starting from a much lower base. For example, we presently have only about 10% of the electrical capacity of neighboring Thailand and per capita income averages about 1/3 of other ASEAN members and only about 1/5 of Thailand.
Further, Myanmar had an estimated 4.4 million mobile telephone users in March 2013. With reform and the introduction of new telecom licenses from Telenor and Ooredoo, the number of users more than doubled in 2014 to an estimated18.1 million active users by the end of March 2015. Penetration, however, still remains far lower than neighboring countries and additional growth is expected moving forward.
Other sectors offer similar potential and a wide range of opportunities as we catch up and infrastructure, capacity, and industry develops, and consumption and other indicators rise, to a level in accordance with our underlying fundamentals. In short, we are a newly emerging market, with a young population – seventy percent of which are within the work force. Most importantly our country is changing from a centralized to a more open market economy and there is substantial growth ahead for decades to come. Read more