20 August 20

Novotel Hotel, Yangon

Your Excellency Scot Marciel, U.S. Ambassador to Myanmar,

Your Excellency Ichiro Maruyama, Ambassador of Japan to Myanmar,

 Distinguished Representatives of the Chambers of Commerce and Industry present here today;

 Ladies and Gentlemen,

 I’d like to begin by expressing my thanks and appreciation to:

 • The Chair of the Japan Chamber of Commerce and Industry in Myanmar, 

 • The President of the American Chamber of Commerce in Myanmar,

 • the Japan External Trade Organisation,

 • the Japan International Cooperation Agency,

 • the US Commercial Service and,

 • the Directorate for Investment and Company Administration, and the Myanmar Investment Commission.

 Thank you all for your role in arranging this important Forum.

 Ladies and Gentlemen:

  Before I begin, I would like to direct our attention, and indeed, our  compassion, toward those recovering from the incessant rains which  battered Myanmar recently and which, as we all know, triggered a tragic  landslide in Paung Township. 

 While Mon State is the worst-hit, the people of Bago Region, Kayin State and Sagaing Region have also been severely affected.

  Our Department of Disaster Management is working closely with local  authorities and first responders, including our security and fire  services, the military, local community groups, the Myanmar Red Cross,  monasteries and other faith groups - and of course, with the private  sector to provide immediate and longer-term assistance.

 I know that many of you have been fortunate to spend time with communities who are now beginning their recovery process. 

  I would simply ask that where possible, you might consider supporting  these recovery efforts either through existing CSR programmes, or  through any other avenue deemed appropriate.

 Excellencies, Distinguished Guests:

  As I am sure you are aware, in November of 2018 the new Union Ministry  of Investment and Foreign Economic Relations was created to help further  enhance this government’s ability to ensure that foreign investment,  and development financing more broadly, is best able to address the  needs of our people, while promoting quality, responsible and  sustainable economic development through enhanced cooperation with the  international community.

 I am pleased to say that we are already seeing sure signs of success!

  Throughout the past nine months we have seen a raft of ambitious policy  reforms which have facilitated new investments in infrastructure,  services, transport, and manufacturing amongst many other sectors.

  In part due to rising investor interest, from both a regional and  global perspective, Myanmar is expected to continue experiencing robust  economic growth, likely to top 6.8 per cent in 2020.  

  Commensurate with this growth, I am very pleased to report that DICA  approved investments have now risen 79 per cent, totalling US$2.35  billion.

 Encouragingly, investment from Singapore, where many  Western and Japanese companies situate their regional investment  operations, almost tripled to US$1.3 billion in the first half of 2019. 

 Chinese and Hong Kong investment in Myanmar has also grown some 150 per cent to US$590 million.

 In terms of sectors, energy, transport, and infrastructure saw promising growth. 

 Investment into our manufacturing sector has risen some 60% to $700 million. 

 Investment in transportation and telecommunications have quadrupled to $1 billion. 

  We very much look forward to seeing positive spill-over effects made  possible by these and other investments, and to the new job  opportunities they will create.

 Excellencies, Distinguished Guests:

 In Myanmar we have a saying:

 “A single sesame seed will not make oil.” 

  So, let me now take a brief moment to describe a few of these major  reform initiatives that this government has pursued since coming into  office.

 None of the success we are seeing occurred by chance.  Indeed, much of our shared success has been achieved despite challenging  global and regional headwinds.

 In 2016, we successfully passed  the Myanmar Investment Law which sought to increase levels investment  from both foreign and local partners. 

 Our new Investment Law  greatly simplified rules and regulations and brought Myanmar into  greater alignment with global standards.

 But we did not stop there.

  Shortly afterwards, in May of 2018, working together with the Ministry  of Commerce, we were able to open up our wholesale and retail sector to  direct foreign investment.

 Subsequently, on the 1st of August  last year, our new Companies Law came into effect – permitting  investments in domestic companies of up to 35 per cent.

 This new  law also opened up our stock exchange to foreign participation –  providing more streamlined business regulations, making it easier than  ever to launch and operate new businesses, while providing the  government with powers to enforce new corporate governance rules and  regulations.

 We’ve also launched our new, online company registration portal known as “MyCO”.

  In addition to making the company registration process quick and  efficient, MyCO also provides a searchable company registry that offers  much greater corporate transparency. 

 I am sure that the new  procedure will assist potential investors as they conduct due diligence  and other research as they consider entering the Myanmar market.

  As evidence of MyCO’s success, I am very pleased to announce that in the  last month alone, DICA saw 1,428 new companies register successfully -  100 per cent of which opted to register online via MyCO.

 In  little more than a year we have seen the complete digitalization of the  company registration process! I think this is remarkable progress – and  it is progress like this that we are committed to learning from,  adapting and expanding to other areas.

 Then, in April of this  year, the government awarded licenses to five international insurance  firms to offer wholly-foreign-owned life insurance options.

 I am  very pleased to say that Dai-ichi Life from Japan, and Chubb from the  US, were amongst those firms who were granted licenses.

 This is a  highly strategic sector for Myanmar with significant growth potential.  According to one forecast made by Japan’s Dai-ichi Life, our insurance  sector will expand nearly a hundred times over to $1.3 billion in the  next ten years! 

 To help coordinate these reforms, together with a  pipeline of upcoming reforms, as I noted earlier, the government  created the Ministry for Foreign Investment and Economic Relations.

 I am deeply honoured to serve this new Ministry as Minister.

  The Ministry is fully committed to doing its part to ensure the  successful implementation of both our Myanmar Sustainable Development  Plan and the Myanmar Investment Promotion Plan. 

 Taken together,  these strategic documents provide us with a unifying and coherent  roadmap for all future reforms while reflecting Myanmar’s commitment to  the 2030 Agenda and to doing our utmost to support the achievement of  the Sustainable Development Goals.

 Excellencies, Distinguished Guests:

  As I have said, our shared success – and I stress, it is a shared  success – has thus far has been the result of a series of well planned,  well sequenced, reform initiatives – analogous perhaps to a performance  of a traditional Myanmar "Hsaing waing" - loosely translated as a  traditional Myanmar orchestra.

 In a traditional Myanmar orchestra  we have the pyissin turiya, or brass instruments, – the kyei, leather  covered drums – the thayyei , string and wind instruments, the kyo and  lei and so on.

 If a conductor were to instruct the orchestra to  play each instrument in isolation or even consecutively – one would  never experience the beauty of the full ensemble. Delicate rhythms and  melodies would be drowned out by a cacophony - “full of sound and fury,  signifying nothing” to quote the great bard Shakespeare.

The same  can be said of a country’s reform process, and in our particular case,  the creation of an investment enabling environment.

 Ladies and Gentlemen:

  Over the past seven years Myanmar has undergone a largely peaceful  transition from military dictatorship to a democratic, civilian-led  government.

 While many truly remarkable changes have occurred, like the State Counsellor noted, challenges do remain.

  Recognising the immense value of foreign investment, it could be said  that Myanmar is still in the early stages of our structural  transformation – a process which, over time, will require the continued  reallocation of economic activity from low to high productivity sectors.

  “Success smiles upon those who anticipate changes in their operating  environment, and not upon those who seek to adapt once changes have  occurred.”  

 A vast majority of our domestic private sector is  witnessing the rapid pace of change and adjusting their business models  accordingly. Outdated conglomerates are now seeking to reform, albeit  slowly.

 Yet, while in Myanmar in 2019, ‘business as usual’ cannot  be considered a recipe for success, to quote the famed Japanese author  Miyamoto Musashi:

 “…there is more than one path to the top of the mountain.”  

 In some aspects of Myanmar’s reform, the thousand-mile road must be walked step-by-step. 

  We welcome, and indeed, we prioritise economic ties and engagement with  those foreign companies and businesses that can move with the times.  Such relationships will strengthen our economy in ways that promote  human rights in all forms, ensure the full consideration of potential  negative social or economy impacts, and supports the continued economic  expansion in accordance with liberal democratic norms and principles.

  We are equally open to greater and deeper dialogue with you, investors  and partners in development. Together, we look forward to adapting  policies and approaches in ways that encourage positive incentives,  manage risks and create shared value – both commercial and developmental  benefits - for businesses and society alike.

 Ladies and Gentlemen:

  As I conclude my remarks, I do encourage both US and Japanese investors  to search for partnerships within our expanding agriculture sector.

  This includes investing in the construction of durable, climate  resilient transport infrastructure, and bringing farmers closer to  markets. 

 I also encourage you to identify ‘investment synergies’  which will contribute to the of strengthening our nation’s economic  fundamentals – infrastructure financing, labour, procurement, banking  etc.

 To our friends from the US, we strongly encourage you to  consider channelling greater investment into our Special Economic Zones  such as Thilawa.

 We’ve have noted that these SEZs tend to attract  more technologically sophisticated firms and are playing an  increasingly important role in fostering skills and knowledge transfer  throughout the rest of the economy.

 Finally, we in Nay Pyi Taw  welcome closer working relationships with you all, especially where  these relationships can encourage greater investment, boost  productivity, and help to speed up our nation’s expansion of  manufacturing activity.

 The ideas I share today have implications far beyond our efforts to attract foreign investment.

  Indeed, I believe they will help to further cement Myanmar’s shift  towards an open, market-based economy and ensure that democracy takes  firm root in the country.

 Excellencies, Distinguished Guests:

  As a new wave of investment-oriented reform bears fruit, more Japanese  and US companies have shown growing interest in investing in Myanmar. We  warmly welcome you.

 The Directorate for Investment and Company  Administration, our investment promotion agency, is also here to assist –  providing information, fostering coordination and identifying new  opportunities in Myanmar.

 I look forward to meeting with you and  and our broader development partner community again during our next  Development Effectiveness Roundtable scheduled to take place in December  of this year.

 In the meantime, do come and experience Myanmar’s entrepreneurial and ever-resilient spirit.

Thank you.

And yet, as it has been said before:

You can’t always choose your shoes on a long walk.