Small in­dus­trial zones in dis­re­pair

The Myanmar Times - - Front Page -

The gov­ern­ment should di­rect in­vest­ment to­ward up­grad­ing the coun­try’s age­ing in­dus­trial zones be­fore launch­ing new ones, say Yan­gon fac­tory own­ers.

IN­VEST­MENT should be di­rected to­ward up­grad­ing the coun­try’s age­ing in­dus­trial zones, as the gov­ern­ment con­tem­plates launch­ing new ones, say Yan­gon in­dus­tri­al­ists.

As the Yan­gon Re­gion gov­ern­ment and Myan­mar In­vest­ment Com­mis­sion (MIC) mull the re­gen­er­a­tion of the coun­try’s in­dus­trial base, the own­ers of ex­ist­ing fac­to­ries say more can be done to make them com­pet­i­tive.

U Ko Gyi, chair of North Dagon in­dus­trial zone, said, “Of­fi­cials want to de­velop new in­dus­trial zones to strengthen the ex­port sec­tor, but they are not help­ing the old zones to be more pro­duc­tive. We need up­grades, but can­not af­ford to do it our­selves. If there is go­ing to be new fund­ing or equip­ment, it should come to [the ex­ist­ing zones] first.”

He said most of the old in­dus­trial zones, in­clud­ing in North and South Dagon, were home to small en­ter­prises oc­cu­py­ing 2400-square-foot lots.

Al­most 20 years old, they suf­fer from de­cay­ing in­fra­struc­ture, poor roads, and in­suf­fi­cient wa­ter and elec­tric­ity sup­plies, he said. Waste col­lec­tion is in­ad­e­quate, and op­er­a­tors com­plain of high tolls on ac­cess roads and bridges.

U Ko Lay, spokesper­son for South Dagon in­dus­trial zone agreed, say­ing, “Yan­gon Re­gion gov­ern­ment wants to sup­port the in­dus­trial sec­tor, but only seems to have in mind the big zones that al­ready have a lot of in­vest­ment.”

Last week, the MIC agreed to de­velop new in­dus­trial zones and to ex­pand the in­dus­trial sec­tor to boost ex­ports. Sec­re­tary U Aung Naing Oo told me­dia that the com­mis­sion would pri­ori­tise the cre­ation of job op­por­tu­ni­ties in fac­to­ries.

“The MIC will soon in­au­gu­rate new in­dus­trial zones, with more job op­por­tu­ni­ties, and will also train work­ers in in­dus­trial skills,” he said, adding that the new zones would be pro­vided with the nec­es­sary in­fra­struc­ture.

“This will re­quire greater pro­duc­tiv­ity, so we will set up many new small in­dus­trial zones around the coun­try. We will work with state and re­gional gov­ern­ments to in­vite com­pa­nies to in­vest in them,” he said.

“The most im­por­tant re­quire­ment is skilled labour. The devel­op­ment of the in­dus­trial sec­tor de­pends on the pro­vi­sion of train­ing. That will both at­tract in­vestors and pro­vide lo­cal res­i­dents with higher wages.”

Yan­gon Chief Min­is­ter U Phyo Min Thein has said he wants to up­grade all the in­dus­trial zones in Yan­gon, us­ing the city’s largest zone, Hlaing Thar­yar, as a pi­lot pro­ject.

“Hlaing Thar­yar has much more in­vest­ment than North and South Dagon in­dus­trial zones. We’re wor­ried about the level of sup­port for the smaller zones,” said U Ko Lay.

South Dagon is di­vided into three zones of about 750 acres (300 hectares) each. Fac­to­ries there are labour­in­ten­sive and lack in­fra­struc­ture and a re­li­able power sup­ply, he said.

U Min Thu Myint, a fac­tory owner in Shwe Pyi Thar in­dus­trial zone, said, “Although our zone is more than 1300 acres [520ha], only half of it is oc­cu­pied be­cause the land is so ex­pen­sive. I would like to see new zones devel­oped, but the gov­ern­ment should sup­port the ex­ist­ing ones with new in­fra­struc­ture and in­vest­ment.”

For U Myint Zaw, gen­eral man­ager of Myan­mar Ja­pan Thi­lawa Devel­op­ment, which runs the coun­try’s only spe­cial eco­nomic zone, for­eign in­vest­ment re­quires good in­fra­struc­ture.

“To sus­tain eco­nomic growth and to cut the trade deficit, we need to in­vest in ex­port-ori­ented in­dus­tries and im­port-sub­sti­tu­tion com­pa­nies. But we can’t at­tract that kind of in­vest­ment with­out guar­an­tee­ing a re­li­able elec­tric­ity sup­ply,” he said.

“In Thi­lawa SEZ, we are invit­ing that kind of in­vest­ment for the fu­ture of our coun­try, but even here, we can­not match neigh­bour­ing coun­tries when it comes to pro­vid­ing elec­tric­ity.”

There are 19 in­dus­trial zones in the coun­try, with a fur­ther six un­der devel­op­ment. Two more SEZs are at the plan­ning stages in Dawei, Tanintharyi Re­gion, and Rakhine State’s Kyauk­phyu.

‘We need up­grades, but can­not af­ford to do it our­selves.’

U Ko Gyi North Dagon in­dus­trial zone

Photo: AFP

Staff work at the Sh­weyi Zabe gar­ment fac­tory in Shwe Pyi Thar in­dus­trial zone in Yan­gon.

TIN YADA­NAR TUN

HTIN LYNN AUNG

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