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Economy

Suu Kyi courts Japan investment with new economic zone

Myanmar hopes for repeat of successful Thilawa project

Aung San Suu Kyi announced Wednesday the creation of a new special economic zone in Mon State. 

YANGON -- Myanmar State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi announced on Wednesday that the government will develop a new special economic zone in Mon State in the east of the country to create jobs and encourage foreign investment.

She spoke during a video conference at an online investment forum that was attended by Japanese bodies such as the Japan Business Federation, or Keidanren. Suu Kyi said: "Job creation remains at the heart of our development plan."

The government plans to develop a seaport and industrial park on the coast of Mon State on the Indian Ocean. A planned highway linking Thailand and Vietnam will pass through Mon State.

At the conference, Investment and Foreign Economic Relations Minister Thaung Tun said: "This new economic zone shall be bigger and better connected than any other economic zones in Myanmar."

Myanmar is hoping to draw more foreign direct investment and Japan has been one of its main investors. According to the Myanmar government, Japanese investment in Myanmar between 2011 and now has exceeded $1.7 billion.

Ken Kobayashi, chair of Keidanren's Japan Myanmar Economic Committee, said: "Because of the coronavirus, there will be a movement to reconsider the supply chain, and I think that Myanmar will receive more attention due to the possibility of factory relocations."

Myanmar mainly exports garments but the industry has been hit hard by the pandemic. Suu Kyi said that the country had only around 350 confirmed cases and that she believed a V-shaped economic recovery was possible in 2021.

Currently, there are three special economic zones under development but only one is operating -- the Thilawa economic zone which was jointly developed with Japan. The economic zone in Kyaukpyu in the west of the country will be jointly developed with China, although construction has not started yet.

Suu Kyi said a new industrial park will also be developed west of Yangon, and the tender process will start soon. The industrial park was thought to be initiated by the Chinese, but Myanmar will invite Japanese companies to participate in the project.

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