December 16, 2013 3:41 am JST

Myanmar economic zone still on track to open in 2015: minister

JUN SUZUKI, Nikkei staff writer

Myanmar's National Planning and Economic Development Minister Kan Zaw

TOKYO -- Myanmar expects to launch a large special economic zone early in 2015 as planned, the head of the economic development ministry told The Nikkei on Sunday, brushing aside concerns that the project will be delayed.

     Kan Zaw, minister of national planning and economic development, was in Tokyo to attend a summit between Japan and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations. He talked about the Thilawa Special Economic Zone, the country's first modern industrial park. Preparation of the site swung into full gear just last month.

     The Japanese government and private-sector businesses are involved in the park's development. Kan Zaw said Myanmar will make the law governing the special economic zone competitive compared with others in Southeast Asia, spelling out preferential tax treatment and other incentives. Companies from Japan and Hong Kong have drawn up plans to move into the zone, he said.

     Kan Zaw said Myanmar is moving to overhaul administrative procedures for forming companies and other activities in order to attract foreign investment. In a recent study, the World Bank ranked Myanmar 182nd out of 189 countries in terms of how easy it is for foreign firms to do business.

     "We have learned many lessons" from the study as to what to do and what to correct, Kan Zaw said, stressing that the country will improve its place in the standings.

     Myanmar is aiming for economic growth of 9% next fiscal year on the assumption that it will attract investment partly through special economic zones, he said. The Asian Development Bank forecasts economic growth of 6.8%.