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Myanmar seeks Japan FDI to aid agriculture, economic reforms

Staff Report

Myanmar needs Japanese investments as well as capacity-building support as the Southeast Asian nation faces the massive challenge of rapid economic reforms, leading figures in the country’s business community said at a recent symposium in Tokyo.

Speaking at the event organized by the Keizai Koho Center on March 7 to discuss the country’s economic and political reforms, Tin Htut Oo, chairman of the National Economic and Social Advisory Council of Myanmar, urged Japan to cooperate with Myanmar in beefing up its agriculture and food production capacity, which he said would contribute to addressing the issue of regional food security in Asia.

Tin Htut Oo said that the rising global population and increasing energy demand requires production of more food using fewer resources. Citing a U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization report, he said that 70 percent of future food production growth will have to come from new technology, innovation and better policy.

It is the input from advanced economies like Japan that holds the key to increased global food production, Tin Htut Oo said. Japan can offer a lot in terms of its food production technology, food safety standards and agribusiness management knowhow to utilize Myanmar’s rich natural resources and the potential to become a major base of the regional food supply chain, he said.

Zaw Min Win, vice president of Myanmar’s Federation of Chambers of Commerce and Industry, said that China accounts for about 34 percent of the approved FDI in Myanmar as of the end of January, followed by Thailand at 23 percent, Hong Kong at 15 percent and South Korea at 7.1 percent. While 34 Japanese firms have had their investment plans approved, they together account for 0.64 percent of the total FDI amount, he said.

Than Lwin, deputy chairman of Kanbawza Bank Ltd., the country’s largest commercial bank, said Myanmar’s financial sector is going through its second reform program after an earlier attempt failed in the 1990s.

Local banks face the need for capacity building, including securing highly trained bank professionals, addressing its weakness in international accounting standards, more independent bank management and improved risk management, he said. Kanbawza Bank has signed an agreement with Japan’s Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corp., under which SMBC will help build the Myanmar bank’s capacity and provide banking technology, Than Lwin said.