Rush Before Power Transfer Pushes Myanmar FDI to Record $9 Bln

Myanmar's new President Htin Kyaw (L) and outgoing president Thein Sein sit during the handover ceremony at the presidential palace in Naypyitaw, March 30. Growth in Myanmar's investment follows reforms launched in 2012 by Sein after decades of military rule. REUTERS/Ye Aung Thu

By Aung Hla Tun

YANGON, April 4  – Foreign direct investment (FDI) in Myanmar in the fiscal year ending in March grew to nearly $9 billion, a government official said on Monday, after a rush of last-minute approvals before the handover of power to Aung San Suu Kyi’s administration.

The figure, a record high, rose by about $1 billion compared with the previous fiscal year, fueled by investment in the energy, manufacturing and telecoms sectors, San Myint, an official at the Directorate of Investment and Company Administration, told Reuters.

The investment reflects growing, if still cautious, interest in one of Asia’s last remaining untapped markets, which has offered tax breaks and export tariff perks to create urgently jobs for its 51.5 million people.

San Myint said FDI rose sharply after a body approving projects signed off on several large deals before Suu Kyi’s government took power in April, following an election win last year by her National League for Democracy.

“(Projects) pending a long time in the process due to lack of necessary information were expedited before the end of the fiscal year,” said San Myint.

Myanmar received $4.1 billion in FDI in 2013/2014 and that number doubled by the end of last fiscal year as foreign firms won oil and gas concessions and international hotel chains started moving in.

Singapore tops the list of foreign investors, the official said, followed by China, Hong Kong and the Netherlands. He said a detailed breakdown was not available as it was still being calculated.

The Asian Development Bank forecast last week Myanmar’s economic growth would recover to 8.4 percent in the fiscal year ending March 2017, partly thanks to a pick up in foreign investment.

“Foreign direct investment is expected to get a lift from the successful political transition following national elections in November 2015, with investment flowing into newly established special economic zones and rapidly expanding transport, telecommunications, and energy sectors,” the bank said.

Growth in Myanmar’s investment follows reforms launched in 2012 by former president Thein Sein, a former general who enlisted help from technocrats and global financial institutions to overhaul an economy that wilted under sanctions and inept policy-making during five decades of military rule.

The lifting of most Western embargoes has allowed foreign access to sectors from banking, property and tourism to factories, infrastructure, airports and agribusiness.

The $9 billion in FDI is some 27 times the $329.6 million received in 2009/2010, the year before the military ceded power.

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