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November 12, 2019

Has investing in Myanmar gotten safer?

The Pyithu Hluttaw Committee on Investment and Industrial Development meeting is underway in Nay Pyi Taw.   PHOTO: KAY KAY
The Pyithu Hluttaw Committee on Investment and Industrial Development meeting is underway in Nay Pyi Taw.  PHOTO: KAY KAY

The Investment and Industrial Development Committee of the Pyithu Hluttaw was formed on 24 February, 2016, by Notification No. 30/2016 during the 11th-day meeting of the First Pyithu Hluttaw. The committee operates on a one-year term and has been extended three times so far.
The committee has seven tasks, five mandates and three entitlements. It was first formed with 15 Hluttaw representatives and after undergoing replacements and additions of members, it currently has 18 members and 2 Tatmadaw representatives as observers.
U Win Thein Zaw, Pyithu Hluttaw MP for Salin constituency, currently chairs the committee and is aided by its secretary U Aung Kyaw Kyaw Oo, Pyithu Hluttaw MP for Hlaing constituency.

The Industrial Zone Bill
According to U Win Thein Zaw, the committee had to assess five committees and is working towards enacting the industrial zone bill. They worked closely with the Ministry of Industry, the Legal Affairs and Special Cases Assessment Commission and the Office of the Union Attorney-General. They also held meetings with industrial business owners.
The committee is also working to draft an industrial enterprise bill. “It’s no walk in the park to draft laws,” said U Win Thein Zaw. “You have to coordinate and discuss with all stakeholders. Then when you do have a draft, you have to submit it to the bill committee,” he explains.

Investments past & future
In addition to industrial laws, U Win Thein Zaw’s committee also works for the betterment of the investment sector. They hold talks with interested investors from both home and abroad. He remarks that sometimes they get to work with the government, and sometimes they don’t.
Investors bring with them challenges and it’s not always smooth sailing to resolve them. Investments are still business in nature and can’t be implemented immediately. Everybody wants progress to march quickly but the truth is that it has to be a gradual process, laments U Win Thein Zaw.
He tells us that investment activities done in the past did not have transparency and it’s a challenge in itself to go back and fix them now. “Sometimes we don’t know what the content of the contract entails,” he says.
But he says what’s done is in the past and that: “We are striving to make investment processes genuine and contracts stronger while reducing public losses and environmental impact.”
U Win Thein Zaw says there are lessons to be learnt from the past and the important thing is the committee works towards preventing the public and national loss and minimizing loopholes.
Assisting the legislation process
The Pyithu Hluttaw Office has tasked the Committee on Investment and Industrial Development to assist the legislation process for six laws. They are The Private Industrial Enterprise Law (Law No. 22/1990), Prevention of Hazard from Chemical and Related Substances Law (Pyidaungsu Hluttaw Law No. 28/2013), The Boiler Rule (Pyidaungsu Hluttaw Law No. 39/2015), the Industrial Design Law (Pyidaungsu Hluttaw Law No. 2/2019), the Trademark Law (Pyidaungsu Hluttaw Law No. 3/2019), and the Patent Law (Pyidaungsu Hluttaw Law No. 7/2019).
The committee has finished reviewing the industrial zone bill and is working towards converting The Private Industrial Enterprise Law into simply the industrial enterprise law.

Help in other sectors
While supporting the development of the two sectors in its name, the Committee on Investment and Industrial Development also assists in the development of science, technology and micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs), and transitioning the entire country from manual to mechanical agriculture.
Secretary U Aung Kyaw Kyaw Oo, Pyithu Hluttaw MP for Hlaing constituency, tells us that they also engage in discussions concerning laws related to investments. He said the committee has perused the industrial zone bill over 16 committee meetings, 15 meetings with the Ministry of Industry, 8 meetings with the Legal Affairs and Special Cases Assessment Commission, 8 meetings with the Office of the Union Attorney-General, and 2 meetings with industrial enterprises.
He tells us that his committee submitted the bill to the Pyithu Hluttaw on 18 August this year after going through the 41 meetings mentioned earlier. The Pyithu Hluttaw approved the bill and the committee’s report on it on the 3rd of September last month. His committee also cooperates on reviewing the industry ministry’s budget as joint review group No. 12.
Showing results to the public
U Aung Kyaw Kyaw Oo said his committee is well versed in matters related to the industrial sector. They are able to effectively guide it. But the investment sector is a completely different matter with weaknesses in it. While his committee isn’t tasked with reviewing the investment law, he said it is a necessary law. He said they will strive to apply the same valid guidance on investment activities and to offer it in a transparent manner for public viewing.

Completed tasks
The Committee on Investment and Industrial Development has done a lot during the Second Pyithu Hluttaw. So far, it has conducted 3 introduction meetings, 11 coordination meeting, 10 external meetings, 34 meetings for joint budget review No. 12, 42 meetings with the Joint Bill Committee, 28 meetings to discuss the draft bill with the industry ministry and a meeting on the Myingyan-Pinpat Project with the same ministry.
Drafting the industrial enterprise bill
“In the coming 14th regular Hluttaw meeting, we will be working on the SME industrial enterprise law, business law, and adding in the category for micro to the term SME,” said U Aung Kyaw Kyaw Oo. He said there is a large number of small (or micro) businesses in Myanmar and they are currently not legally represented, meaning they will not receive any benefits from the law. His committee will also attempt to draft the industrial enterprise bill in the coming parliamentary meeting.
The committee will be working closely with the Ministry of Investment and Foreign Economic Relations to handle investment activities with better guidance. “To be frank, we have no problem handling information and matters concerning the industrial sector,” said U Aung Kyaw Kyaw Oo. “But the ministry is newly formed and we haven’t gotten in contact yet.”

Technical assistance
Yangon currently has Nyaung Hna Pin Industrial Zone, Htantabin Industrial Zone and Hlegu Industrial Zone, although U Aung Kyaw Kyaw Oo’s committee doesn’t have complete information on them yet.
He said they have about 150,000 micro-businesses running on minor investments or capital and 30,000 SMEs. This is excluding the unregistered ones. The committee gives out two-step loans and technical support. But the micro-businesses are left out since they legally don’t exist. This is why the committee is working to include micro businesses into the existing law.
On a final note, the Committee on Investment and Industrial Development also works tirelessly to resolve public complaints. They have received 29 letters so far and have sent all of them to the concerned government department or agency with remarks. (Translated by Pen Dali)

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