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Economy

Myanmar seeks to build on foreign-investment momentum: finance minister

Myanmar's finance and planning minister Kyaw Win.

YANGON -- Myanmar aims to attract more foreign investment over the next five years than under the previous government, Finance Minister Kyaw Win told The Nikkei in a recent interview.

The country received about $28 billion in foreign direct investment over previous President Thein Sein's five years in office, driving rapid economic growth estimated at an annualized 8% this year. Kyaw Win said, "the new government, which came into power at the end of March, plans to attract even more money through such changes as making it easier for foreign investors to buy land."

Past investments focused mostly on natural gas and other resource development projects. "The government is looking to strike a better balance between industries, and will place more effort into drawing funds for the agricultural and manufacturing sectors," the minister said.

"Japan has a long history of friendship and understanding with Myanmar and is the country's most important partner," Kyaw Win said. He expressed hopes that Japanese companies would equip Myanmar workers with advanced training and technology, helping the government achieve a key goal of creating new jobs.

Trading on the Yangon Stock Exchange began in March, but foreign players remain unable to invest in the two stocks listed there. Kyaw Win stressed the importance of the new bourse as a way to funnel excess cash in the country to corporations, and said investors abroad will be given access to the exchange within the next year.

Myanmar has designated three special economic zones where foreign companies can operate under preferential tax treatment and receive other benefits. Sumitomo Corp. and two other Japanese trading houses have been involved in the development of the Thilawa zone outside Yangon. Over 70 companies, many of them Japanese, have decided to set up shop there.

"Thilawa is the most important outpost for Myanmar trade," Kyaw Win said. He stressed that he will continue to support the development of the industrial park, and said he is even considering setting up a new economic zone to build ties with India and Africa.

Regarding Myanmar's growing budget deficit, the minister said, "inefficient state-run companies must be overhauled. He said that the government is reviewing possible candidates to privatize these businesses, with a high priority on the manufacturing and logistics sectors."

As the first head of the Ministry of Planning and Finance, Kyaw Win is responsible for Myanmar's economic strategy, fiscal management and securities market.

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