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August 13, 2020

U Thaung Tun, Minister of Investment and Foreign Economic Relations “Myanmar-Japan Investment Dialogue on Economic Recovery after COVID-19 and New Investment Opportunities” Speech and Presentation

29 July 2020

Excellencies, Distinguished Guests,
Please permit me to voice my support for the sentiments expressed by Her Excellency the State Counsellor, and to note my sincere appreciation for this opportunity to address you at today’s Myanmar-Japan Investment Dialogue.
Before I begin, I wish to thank His Excellency Mr. Hiromasa NAKANO, State Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry, Parliamentary Vice-Minister of Cabinet Office, Parliamentary Vice-Minister for Reconstruction, His Excellency Ichiro MARUYAMA, Japan’s Ambassador to the Republic of the Union of Myanmar, Mr. Nobuhiko SASAKI, Chairman of the Japan External Trade Organisation, and Mr. Kazufumi TAKANA, Managing Director of JETRO’s Yangon Office.
My heartfelt thanks also go to the hundreds of distinguished business leaders who have joined us today and who share our eagerness to see the emergence of a more prosperous, peaceful and democratic Myanmar. Your presence here is warmly welcomed.
Finally, my thanks to all who have played a role in preparing for this excellent virtual dialogue. I am confident that today’s discussions will provide a fruitful exchange of views until such time that we can be together again.

Excellencies, Distinguished Guests,
I’ve been asked to offer not only an assessment of where we are today but also where we wish to be tomorrow.
I would like to begin these remarks by acknowledging the dramatic impact that COVID-19 has had on our economies.
With a pandemic-inspired global downturn underway in both developed and emerging economies alike, the disease continues to exact a severe toll.
In Myanmar, the pandemic has disrupted key growth engines – tourism, manufacturing sector and exports.
In recent years, Myanmar experienced amongst our region’s highest GDP growth rates. However, the ADB now forecasts the country’s 2020 growth at just 1.8 per cent. Yet Myanmar remains among a handful of economies that is expected to post positive growth this calendar year. Encouragingly, the ADB also forecasts a rapid return to pre-crisis growth levels of 6 per cent and above in 2021.
The Government of Myanmar committed to easing the economic burden felt by businesses and households – guided by our COVID-19 Economic Relief Plan – and to establishing the foundations necessary to facilitate our rapid economic recovery as part of a ‘whole-of-nation’ response.
Thanks to the brave men and women fighting the disease at the front and the decisive actions taken by our governments, we have been able to meet the challenge posed by the pandemic. Just as Japan today sees confirmed COVID-19 cases at rates significantly lower than similarly- sized European countries, we in Myanmar can also be justifiably proud of our collective efforts.
Neither country was forced to choose between managing the pandemic and preserving the lives of its people. Indeed, by acting quickly, we have achieved both objectives simultaneously. While it appears that we have been spared the worst, we still have miles to go before we can rest.

Excellencies, Distinguished Guests,
Japan ranks amongst our most important economic partners. It is the 5th largest investor in our country and 3rd largest export market. Indeed, bilateral trade between our countries has already exceeded US$1.273 billion this current fiscal year and the total bilateral trade since the dawn of our democratic transition has reached US$16.5 billion.
Thanks to the trust Japanese investors have placed in Myanmar, approved FDI from Japan this current fiscal year exceeds US$700 million despite COVID-19– ensuring we remain on track to meet this year’s target of US$5.8 billion.
Amidst the global uncertainty, some may well ask: Why invest in Myanmar? Why now?
I say – with this government’s pursuit of broad-based, sustainable and inclusive growth, Myanmar offers one of the most exciting investment destinations currently on offer anywhere.
We are the largest country on the Southeast Asian mainland, strategically located in one of the world’s fastest-growing regions.
We offer a vibrant and dynamic land-bridge, connecting the Indian subcontinent to Southeast Asia. Bordering 40 per cent of the world’s population, Myanmar is blessed with 1,200 miles of uninterrupted coastline – from the Bay of Bengal to the Andaman Sea. And, with a sizable population of 54 million and a rapidly growing middle-class, the country also enjoys what has been termed a ‘demographic dividend’.
This government recognises the important contribution Japan can and does make to our nation’s development aspirations – from agro-industry to transport and storage, from energy to advanced manufacturing.

Excellencies, Distinguished Guests,
Permit me to offer just a brief insight into the many investment reform measures undertaken which have catapulted Myanmar into this year’s World Bank Ease of Doing Business top 20 most-improved countries.
Soon after our administration assumed office in 2016, we passed the new Myanmar Investment Law with greatly simplified rules and regulations bringing our investment regime in-line with global standards. A new Companies Law was also promulgated permitting investments in domestic companies of up to 35 per cent and opening our Stock Exchange to foreign participation.
New, modern laws governing business activities have transformed Myanmar’s investment regime into one of the region’s most liberal according to the OECD’s FDI Regulatory Restrictiveness Index – a feat the OECD itself describes as being “almost unprecedented”.
We’ve also launched a fully-digitalised company registration portal – MyCO. Since its launch, 100 per cent of new registrations have been made online.
Thanks to initiatives such as MyCO, the Project Bank, the expansion of our Automated Cargo Clearance System to border towns of Muse, Myawaddy and beyond – between 2014 and 2020, Myanmar leapt 29 places on the UN’s e-Government Index – amongst the top 10 most improved countries.
With these initiatives, coupled with a range of complementary legal and procedural reforms, Myanmar’s investment future remains bright.
A vast range of investment opportunities is now open to those who seek them. Allow me to name just a few.
I see Myanmar’s emergence as a hub for high-value modern manufacturing including – from microprocessors and memory chips – items upon which the 4th Industrial Revolution technologies will depend – from cutting edge computers to connected cars, from the Internet of Things to artificial intelligence.
With rapidly growing demand for sustainable energy solutions, combined with this government’s intention to double electric power provision within the coming decade, energy generation and transmission present another highly promising investment area.
Our garments sector continues to expand, with Fitch Solutions predicting Myanmar will remain a dominant regional player – boosted by lower labour and logistical costs and with privileged access to EU markets.
We have also witnessed how COVID-19 has exacerbated existing geopolitical tensions; accelerating major trends already underway. This includes shifts in global supply chains and movements in the manufacturing sector. In this regard, Myanmar seeks to be a preferred destination for those seeking greener and sustainable pastures.

Excellencies, Distinguished Guests,
I am sure many of you would have already heard of the much-heralded New Yangon City project. This proposal envisions Yangon’s emergence as a smart and green city, accompanied by world-class infrastructure that caters to the needs of its people while preserving the environment and the country’s unique social and cultural heritage.
To support the achievement of this vision, and to facilitate Yangon’s return to its rightful place as a jewel in the crown of Asia – it gives me great pleasure to announce here today that we shall soon be launching a new Swiss Challenge competitive tender process for the development of a completely new industrial park and ancillary infrastructure in the Western part of Yangon, unbundled from the larger city development project.
In this regard, we shall adhere to international best practice, ensuring that the process be carried out in a transparent manner through competitive tendering, supported by a leading international transaction advisory firm.

Excellencies, Distinguished Guests,
Consistent with this administration’s commitment to opening up our economy, to promoting quality employment opportunities and securing sustainable growth, today I am deeply honoured to announce this government’s intention to launch an entirely new Special Economic Zone along the coastline of Mon State.
Building upon Thilawa’s success and the realization of the GMS East-West corridor linking the Indian Ocean with the Pacific – this new SEZ shall be bigger and better connected than any other SEZ currently in operation anywhere in Myanmar.
And, just like our West Yangon Industrial Park project, the development of this new SEZ shall be world-class, transparent, open, and internationally competitive.

Excellencies, Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen,
COVID-19 has infected both the privileged and the powerless. As a result, our region and indeed our world has undergone radical shifts over just a few short months.
To overcome the crisis, we must ensure a new wave of reforms which will water the roots, not just the leaves.
As we embark on this journey, we are reassured by the presence of our time-tested friend and trusted partner – Japan – and are grateful for your ongoing assistance throughout this particularly challenging period.
Let us join hands and seize this chance to ensure a sussessful recovery today and more sustainable growth tomorrow.
Thank you.

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