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September 23, 2019

Me and the Myanmar Investment Commission

  • By Professor Dr. Aung Tun Thet
Professor Dr. Aung Tun Thet

Different types of investment entities could be seen in many facets such as that doing business is investment, that sending a kid to school is investment, that providing capacity building to an employee is also investment.
More investments reap additional benefits. Therefore, it is universally accepted that the investment is a must for the development of a nation. Either in a developed country or in a developing country, multiplying investment has been laid down as strategic planning. The buzz word “investment” includes the local investment as well as money coming in from abroad.
With a vision for the development of the country, our own investment commission established many years ago in our nation. All the successive governments tried to the best of their ability for the success of the investment tasks. Still today, the strong endeavor is rolling ahead. The most significant stage is being marked after two years of the incumbent new government.
Looking back into the past decades, the portfolio of the Chairman of the Investment Commission was shouldered by a union minister and at the same time over seeing the task of the relevant ministry.
While I was assigned as a member of the investment commission of the country, I still remembered that the then serving chairmen of the investment commission at different times where the Finance Minister; the Planning Minister; the Minister at the President Office; and the Planning and Finance Minister.
In fact, the portfolio of the Chairman of the Investment Commission of Myanmar had been squeezed into part-time stints.
Not long ago during the time of the incumbent government, unprecedented reform has been realized.

New paradigm and management of the Myanmar Investment Commission
The Ministry of Investment and Foreign Economic Relations of Myanmar is a ministry-level body that serves the Government, and its Union Minister has been entrusted the onerous task of the Chairman of the Myanmar Investment Commission as full time job.
New situation creates the way for the Chairman of MIC more opportunity and time for attention and absorption in the line of duty. The Director-General of Directorate of Investment and Company Administration shouldered the responsibility as Secretary of the MIC as in the previous government.
Therefore, the MIC is now in new paradigm and fresh management.
Wide-ranging members are seen as Union Minister, Attorney-General, Deputy Minister, Regional Government Minister, Permanent Secretary, retired senior government officers, business people, and professionals, somewhat like a task force. With diverse backgrounds of experiences, the strong force has a sharp eye for seeing different perspective and angles. The team is very much dependable.
Just moment after the Union Minister U Thaung Tun took the steering of the Chairman; he urged the MIC to immediately turn into a welcoming body, and inspired the business circle to invest more.
Simply on the desire and of my own view, the MIC should be embedded with the Myanmar alphabet with three (r) (MA). The first (MA) stands out for (Myan Myan Lar), the wakeup call for speedy and prompt incoming investment.
The second (MA) rolls out as (Myar Myar) by inviting for abundant investment in millions of dollars.
The third and last (MA) reflected Myanmar meaning (Hman) defining be correct; be true; and be right. It is to say socially responsible investment (SRI), the investment strategy that seeks both financial return and social good. The investment should not harm the environment; should not violate the human rights; and should not breed the bribery and corruption. Such investments are to be welcomed.
Encouraging the investors, we called for corporate social responsibility (CSR), which is a self-regulating business model that helps a company be socially accountable — to itself, its stakeholders, and the public.
As required, the investors inside the country and abroad are to pledge two percent to five percent of the net profit in the CSR context. This endeavor could not be witnessed in other countries.
In addition to CSR, we have urged investors to enroll and register with the UN Global Compact (UNGC), which is a non-binding United Nations pact to encourage businesses worldwide to adopt sustainable and socially responsible policies, and to report on their implementation. The business entities and the investors need to pledge to abide and follow the Ten Principles of the United Nations Global Compact.

Easy access through the Internet established
One stop service (OSS) is active and functional with the MIC. Therefore, the investors are not required to hop from one desk to another, and that the work is done in one place. For the convenience of the investors, modern methods with digital applications are being equipped. Works could be done over the internet without appearing in person.
Various ministries are responsible for the investment tasks, making the process ease and smooth.
With a view to making better investment environment, the relevant international organizations have already been hooked up with the MIC.
A significant success could be identified on the new company law. According to Notification 48/2018 of Office of the President, Republic of the Union of Myanmar on 21st June 2018 Myanmar Companie Law takes effect in accordance with the Myanmar Companies Law section 1(b) on 1st August 2018. It reflects the guarantees to the investors for secure investment, and the MIC is working in transparency.
The MIC is trying its best to disseminate timely information; however, it may fall short in this task. There are some gaps that need to be filled, and the MIC accepts the responsibility for fixing them. Making reform is always on the agenda, and that all the incoming positive suggestions are duly noted to take appropriate actions.
A lot of things are to be done, and that the MIC is looking out of the window to explore what other investment commissions are implementing in their countries.
With fight tooth and nail, each and every country is trying very hard, in luring investment into their own countries, and therefore, we need leaps and bounds and also hops and jumps in edging over other countries.
Naturally, the investors would surely move for the venues where they could reap most advantages. Therefore, we must edge over others.
A point to keep in mind is that just viewing the incoming investment is not quite enough on the part of the MIC. We must go beyond the borders and persuade and pull in the investors. In line with this concept, the Chairman of MIC is doing his vital task in foreign countries.
Opportunities and advantages in investing in Myanmar are to be spread, circulate, and distribute across the globe.
At this juncture, the role and function of the Websites and the Web Portals are very much instrumental, and that MIC Website should be improved and made better than the others.

In quest of better solution
In retrospect, there existed the irresponsible, immature and incongruous investments in our country. In this context, the civil societies, considered as a community of citizens linked by common interests and collective activity, have had deterred the unhealthy investments as much as possible. The MIC is of the same view with the civil societies and that it is desirous to cooperate with them.
The desired goal is for the development of the country, while welcoming the responsible investment. Plans are rolling ahead in the context of transparency, but it should be shifted into top gear as we need to do more. Whatever it may be, the endeavors of the MIC are entitled to be acknowledged.
Finger-pointing is defined as casting blame or assigning the blame for something to someone else, which should be reversed with a positive proposal of a better solution in the weaknesses.
Cooperation and coordination are to be linked among the officials of various ministries, regional and state governments in the implementation tasks of the MIC, which is indeed the challenging matter at the moment.
Needless to say that the investment is not rolling into the country as have expected. Economic situations are not only the hindrances but also the political circumstances triggered the impact over the investment. We must try to understand the worrisome of the investors, and that we must offer guarantee within our ambit as much as possible.
Stability and rule of law are the prerequisite for the investors, and therefore, the MIC may have to offer assurance and guarantee to the responsible investors.

Task would not be completed if one has no guts
Red tape is challenging in our system, and that a string of unnecessary rules and regulations are still rooted in many venues.
Despite eager efforts of the government in easing the business hindrances, Myanmar is ranked 170 among 190 economies in the ease of doing business, according to the latest World Bank annual ratings.
We must try to escape from this reality, where the aid, assistances and cooperation of various ministries are very much vital. More relaxation is needed in this regards, with more guts to work for completion and success.
As there is a saying “No guts No glory”, one must take risks in order to achieve a goal or glory. One who does not try does not succeed success.
If we have dubious and unconvinced thinking over the business people and investors, it might be futile and fruitless. We must welcome the investors with red carpet.
I would like to conclude that trust is the basis of investment, and therefore we must accommodate the investors warmly and provide necessary assistances. On the other hands, the investors should be responsible investors who abide the relevant laws and also protect the environment. Provided preferences to the investors must not be abused, and that mutual trust be fostered to overcome all the huddles. Therefore, the MIC is giving priority in building trust and confidence as much as possible.
Translated by UMT (Ahlon)

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