UK aid program seeks to make it easier to do business in Myanmar
THE United Kingdom’s development arm announced a £25 million (US$32.5 million) aid program yesterday geared toward making it easier to do business in Myanmar and boosting growth in key sectors of the economy, like agriculture and garment manufacturing.
The UK and Australia are currently working with the Directorate of Investment and Company Administration and the Union of Myanmar Federation of Chambers of Commerce and Industry on developing Myanmar’s new investment law and a range of business-related initiatives to cut red tape, according to Liz Patterson, private sector development advisor at the UK’s Department for International Development (DFID).
“We are already working through the World Bank on this and at the sub-national level, trying to have a focus on how long does it take to get a permit from the local government, how easy is it to access the right people at the sub-national level,” she said, speaking at a press conference to launch the five-year program in Yangon yesterday. “The focus at the state level at the moment, is we are starting with a study to look at what are the key constraints at that state level, accessing a business permit to register businesses, for small to large businesses.”
Refining processes to make it easier for businesses at both the state and the national level was an important part of the economy’s development, Ms Patterson said.
The program will look at developing community forestry projects in conflict-affected Kachin, she said, while in terms of sector development, garments and agriculture would be a focus.
“We look at garments and textiles, which have lots of women [workers] and we want to improve the lives and economic empowerment of women, so the garment industry has been chosen for that reason,” Ms Patterson said. “And agribusiness has a lot of potential to improve productivity and to increase trade of beans and pulses by supporting that sector,” she added.
At a panel discussion last week during an international investment conference in Nay Pyi Taw, experts and government outlined the numerous financial and logistical obstacles facing the agricultural sector.
The president of the Freedom of Farmers League, U Thein Aung, said yesterday that ensuring proper land ownership paperwork to gain access to low-rate loans was key to addressing the industry’s woes.
“Financial support in terms of lower-interest loans that allows us to use our farmland for collateral is what we have been seeking for long time,” he said. “The high interest rate from informal lending makes farmer’s lives very difficult.”
Opening up new markets for export was another priority, he added.
“We have excess rice from summer crops and it is close to monsoon harvest soon, but China these days has tried to stop rice imports from Myanmar many times,” he said. “So the rice price will be low at the harvest time. We need new market.
Sacks of beans are put out for sale at Yangon’s Bayintnaung market.