NLD economic policies to address monopolies and foreign investment

The Ministry of Planning and Finance has drafted a range of economic policies that will be published soon, which focus on easing restrictions on foreign investment and creating a level playing field for businesses, Finance Minister U Kyaw Win has said.

Finance Minister U Kyaw Win leaves parliament in March. Photo: EPAFinance Minister U Kyaw Win leaves parliament in March. Photo: EPA

The policies have been drafted, but will only be published after negotiations and consultations with other government bodies, which have yet to take place, deputy minister U Maung Maung Win told The Myanmar Times.

U Kyaw Win told a meeting of businesspeople this week that the policies are focused on creating a level playing field for all businesses and sectors, and removing monopolies. The ministry also plans to ease restrictions on investment and international cooperation, and encourage a policy of supporting rather than protecting local industries, he added.

The draft policies also include measures to help job creation “in line with national reconciliation”, and balance the agricultural and industrial sectors, U Maung Maung Win said.

The new government has learned from previous lessons, and problems like inequality must be solved, U Kyaw Win said.

Myanmar’s business community is eager for clear economic policies from the new government, which could also help to address criticism of the government’s 100-day plan. Under this plan, the various ministries identified immediate priorities that could be tackled quickly and set about addressing them.

There has been uncertainty about exactly when the 100-day initiative, which was announced in April officially started. The planning and finance ministry’s 100-day period started on May 1, U Maung Maung Win said.

As part of the initiative the ministry is making a raft of changes. These included altering company registration fees, increasing the state lottery award to K1 billion, and improving the customs system at Yangon’s port and airport, according to announcements in state media.

But not all of the changes that form part of the 100-day plan will be implemented during the 100 day period that began May 1, U Maung Maung Win said.

Some financial industry figures have said that 100 days is too short a time frame in which to draw up new policies, and are keen to see the government focus more on long-term planning.

U Tin Maung Than, director and senior researcher at Myanmar Development Resource Institute (MDRI), said that the policies that form part of the 100-day initiative should be linked to a longer-term vision for economic progress over the next five years.

The planning and finance ministry has said it will update the public finance management system, improve how state and local budgets are allocated, improve its Treasury bond market and tackle inflation. The measures being taken during the first 100 days should support those types of policies, U Tin Maung Than said.

“The ministry should think about whether it’s worth the money and man-power [to implement] policies that don’t support long-term [aims],” he said.

U Soe Thein, a banker and former deputy director general of the Ministry of Finance, said 100 days was too short a period to improve the country’s economy and that the new ministry should think about its plans for beyond the 100 days.

“This 100-day promise is so political,” he said, adding that areas of the economy like the financial sector need fundamental reforms, which could not be achieved in a short-time frame.

U Maung Maung Win said that the ministry would continue to work on improving the economy, including addressing inflation, after the 100-day period, which was simply an initial target.

The government has already started a review of state-owned economic enterprises to decide which ones could be corporatised or privatised, he said.

U Ye Min Aung, secretary general of Myanmar Rice Federation, said he is hoping that more qualified foreign investment will flow into the agricultural sector under the new government. He was positive on the ministry’s 100-day plan, but urged the new administration to focus on longer-term master plans.

“Thinking more about medium or long-term would be more effective,” he said. A well-functioning capital market, for instance, would be impossible to build within a year, he said. U Ye Min Aung is also the managing director of Myanmar Agribusiness Public Corporation (MAPCO), which is planning to list on the Yangon Stock Exchange later this year.