Tai­wan alu­minium firm opens fac­tory in Yan­gon

Tai­wan’s top alu­minium maker, Abba Alu­minium Co., has opened its first man­u­fac­tur­ing fa­cil­ity in the Thi­lawa Spe­cial Eco­nomic Zone in Yan­gon.

The Myanmar Times - Weekend - - Front Page - JOHN LIU busi­[email protected]­times.com

TAI­WAN’S top alu­minium maker has launched its first man­u­fac­tur­ing plant in Myan­mar.

Abba Alu­minium Co, head­quar­tered in Taoyuan, held the open­ing cer­e­mony for its fac­tory in Thi­lawa Spe­cial Eco­nomic Zone (SEZ) on De­cem­ber 24.

Ini­tial in­vest­ment amounted to US$13 mil­lion and 300-500 lo­cal em­ploy­ees will be hired, ac­cord­ing to Abba’s chair Chen Pai-chin. The es­ti­mated pro­duc­tion value is ex­pected to reach $32.5 mil­lion per year for the first pro­duc­tion phase.

Mr Chen said the pres­ence of a large num­ber of “eth­nic Chi­nese peo­ple in Myan­mar” gives the coun­try an edge over other CLMV economies (Cam­bo­dia, Laos, Myan­mar and Viet­nam) for man­u­fac­tur­ers from Chi­nese-speak­ing coun­tries. He added that Myan­mar’s young work­force is an­other at­trac­tion.

Ini­ti­ated by U Thein Sein’s gov­ern­ment in 2013, Thi­lawa is the only SEZ in op­er­a­tion here, at­tract­ing $1.50 bil­lion for­eign in­vest­ments so far. Apart from Abba, there are four in­vestors in Thi­lawa which are as­so­ci­ated with Tai­wan: Myan­mar Cen­tury Steel Struc­ture, Mar­ketech In­te­grated Man­u­fac­tur­ing Co, Min­erva Co and Crec­imiento In­dus­trial Myan­mar Co.

In an ex­clu­sive in­ter­view with this paper, Mr Chen also elab­o­rated on the dif­fi­cul­ties fac­ing Taiwanese busi­nesses in the coun­try.

For him, the lack of ef­fi­ciency in the Myan­mar bu­reau­cracy was frus­trat­ing. “It took our com­pany one year to ob­tain the con­struc­tion per­mit [for the Thi­lawa plant],” he said, adding that the high man­age­ment and ad­min­is­tra­tive fees in the zone were also a prob­lem. Thi­lawa au­thor­i­ties do not al­low ac­com­mo­da­tion for fac­tory work­ers to be built within the zone, lead­ing to work­ers re­sid­ing in tem­po­rary fa­cil­i­ties near the vicin­ity. In ad­di­tion, road con­nec­tiv­ity be­tween Thi­lawa and Yan­gon is ex­tremely lim­ited, with traf­fic and ap­palling road con­di­tions caus­ing se­vere dis­rup­tion on lo­gis­tics and trans­port. To that end, Japan In­ter­na­tional Co­op­er­a­tion Agency (JICA) has pro­vided a loan to fi­nance a new fourlane Bago River bridge to be built be­side the cur­rent two-lane Than­lyin bridge. The new bridge is ex­pected to be­come op­er­a­tional in 2021.

Tai­wan’s for­mer eco­nomic af­fairs min­is­ter Yen-shi­ang Shih, speak­ing to The Myan­mar Times after the event, high­lighted the fact that Tai­wan’s over­seas in­vest­ments have ex­ceeded $300 bil­lion. “Myan­mar, as an emerg­ing mar­ket, has great po­ten­tial to at­tract more Taiwanese in­vest­ments,” he noted.

In 2016, Taiwanese Pres­i­dent Tsai Ing-wen launched the New South­bound Pol­icy (NSP), which seeks to strengthen Taipei’s re­la­tion­ships with the ten ASEAN coun­tries as well as other economies in the re­gion. The is­land has been self-rul­ing since 1949 but China re­gards it as a break­away prov­ince it will re­unite with one day.

Chun-fu Chang, Taipei Eco­nomic and Cul­tural Of­fice’s rep­re­sen­ta­tive in Myan­mar, said Myan­mar and the is­land have strength­ened the col­lab­o­ra­tion in many ar­eas, in­clud­ing in­vest­ment and trade, un­der the NSP. “Myan­mar has more than 250 ap­proved Taiwanese in­vest­ments over the years, bring­ing more than half a bil­lion US dol­lar worth of busi­nesses to the coun­try,” Mr Chang added.

Photo: Aung Khant

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