UMFCCI told to step up
Government officials told businesspeople at the UMFCCI annual meeting that they have a responsibility to proactively engage foreign investors.
SENIOR government officials have called on Myanmar’s peak business body to step up and provide both a conduit for foreign investors and a representative for small local businesses, as the country’s economy seeks new strides in liberalisation.
Speaking to over a 1000 businesspeople at the Union of Myanmar Federation of Chambers of Commerce and Industry (UMFCCI) annual meeting on October 30, U Phyo Min Thein, chief minister of Yangon Region, called on the industry body to become more professional in the face of new opportunities.
“Lifting sanctions means the private sector will have more access with international trade and businesses, which are a fundamental idea in seeing our economy grow,” he said. “UMFCCI needs to support SMEs and to be a confident organisation that takes the lead for its members.”
U Phyo Min Thein said Myanmar’s SMEs were the backbone of the country, and support was needed for technical transfer and access to financing.
“The government needs to facilitate the promotion of export and trade flow, but, in practical terms. much of this will be done via FDI,” he said.
It is not merely about showing interest via foreign investor applications, said U Phyo Min Thein; he added that there was work to be done to ensure that interest is converted into productive industries for Myanmar, he said.
The government was doing its part to reduce red tape, he added.
“The [new] investment law also making it easier to do business,” he said. “But we need a better banking system to support the SMEs.”
Financing support and rules for collateral needed improving in the banking sector, he said.
Commerce Minister U Than Myint told the audience that the UMFCCI had the responsibility of representing the whole of the private sector, and should be working closely with the government on partnering in projects.
“The new government is seeking growth for economy based on implementing the 12-point policy, but it will need to support the private sector,” he said. “As the UMFCCI is the peak body of the private sector, it also needs to lead and support the growing economy.”
The government’s policies were opening the door for business to grow in Myanmar, he said.
“The policy needs to be supported by the private sector,” the commerce minister said.
‘UMFCCI is the doorway for FDI and other investment.’
U Than Myint Commerce minister
U Than Myint said his ministry was looking at other trade liberalisation and promotion opportunities to enable business development.
Approval of the new investment law, along with the US lifting of sanctions showed the government was doing its part to remove restrictions on foreign investment, he said.
Tax restructuring and making business licensing easier would come into play next financial year, U Than Myint said.
“UMFCCI is the doorway for FDI and other investment, as well as trade relations with ASEAN and the global market,” he said.
Speaking on the event’s sidelines, newly elected UMFCCI president U Zaw Min Win said the government’s policies needed to be clear and concise in order to help grow the economy.
“Financing plays a very critical role,” he said. “Technological transfer and access to market will also be very important.”
U Zaw Min Win praised the government’s efforts in establishing the new investment law.
“But foreign investors are still waiting the new economic policies,” he said. “Currently the economy has slowed, which I think is because of the transition period and businesses are waiting to see the outcome of the new policies from the new government.”
Meanwhile, the local investors were still concerned about an uneven playing field as foreign investors have much better access to financing and technology U Zaw Min Win said.
“Local investors much prefer for joint ventures with foreign companies,” he said.
The UMFCCI president agreed with the government’s assessment, saying that SMEs were the backbone of the country’s economy and the federation needed to find ways of making finance more accessible to small business, as well as connecting them with international partners.
“Illicit trade is also harming several industries in the country,” he said.
“We are conducting a survey of illicit trade to take to the government and ask to address it.”
U Phyo Min Thein, chief minister of Yangon Region addresses business leaders at the UMFCCI annual meeting on October 30.