Tuesday, June 27, 2017
The Myanmar Times
The Myanmar Times

Hlaing Tharyar industrial zone to be upgraded in pilot project

Yangon Region government is to call on private industry to fund an upgrade of Hlaing Tharyar industrial zone to serve as a pilot project for the nation.

Factory workers leave work in Hlaing Tharyar industrial zone. Photo: Naing Wynn Htoon / The Myanmar TimesFactory workers leave work in Hlaing Tharyar industrial zone. Photo: Naing Wynn Htoon / The Myanmar Times

Hlaing Tharyar, the country’s biggest industrial zone, suffers a litany of problems, including inadequate electricity, poor roads and ageing infrastructure.

U Khin Maung Oo, general secretary of Hlaing Tharyar industrial zone management committee, said the leaders of Yangon’s industrial zones met at the end of last month with Yangon Region Chief Minister U Phyo Min Thein to hear his plan for an industry-wide overhaul.

“The government wants to upgrade industrial zones in Yangon, starting in Hlaing Tharyar as a pilot project,” he said, adding that the chief minister said details would follow later.

He believes the government intends to put the development plan out to tender, inviting private companies to develop the necessary infrastructure.

“The government wants to get private infrastructure development companies involved rather than funding the project directly,” said U Khin Maung Oo.

Last month U Phyo Min Thein said that Yangon was strapped for cash, with a budget of under US$300 million, according to local media reports.

Hlaing Tharyar is about 90 percent occupied by industry, compared to the 50pc occupancy rate commonly seen in other zones. But its problems are widely mirrored elsewhere.

Industrialists say they cannot afford to build infrastructure. “We do not have enough money to build the necessary roads, drains and electricity,” said one factory owner.

“If they want to develop the industrial zones, they will need both domestic and foreign investment. For now our main problem is that the zones don’t have 24-hour electricity, which is essential to attract industry,” he said.

Proposals to invest in Myanmar’s industrial zones will be given priority over other investments, as the country seeks to boost its manufacturing sector and create jobs, the secretary of the Myanmar Investment Commission told reporters earlier this week.

“Manufacturing is a key sector for job creation, so we will invite more companies to invest in industrial zones,” said U Aung Naing Oo. “We want to build more industrial zones and we aim to supply the infrastructure needed by investors.”

There are 19 industrial zones in Myanmar, six of which are under development, he said, adding that his department plans to open vocational training centres in each industrial zone to produce the skilled workers needed by manufacturers.

U Ko Lay, head of South Dagon Industrial Zone, said, “Entrepreneurs decided last week to upgrade Hlaing Tharyar as a template for all industrial zones. We will organise a committee to lead the project, whether or not we receive government support.”

He said many industrial zones, including South Dagon, were established some time ago, and have fallen into bad shape. “Many zones are both old and undeveloped. The electrical systems and wiring been left to fall into disrepair. In South Dagon, the wiring is more than 18 years old and urgently needs to be replaced.”

Dilapidated wiring has already caused two accidents in the past month, he said.

Many factories in South Dagon produce garments, rubber and paper, often from recycled materials. “Many factories are very small and don’t employ many workers or use much electricity,” U Ko Lay said, adding that industrialists cannot provide enough funds to carry out the necessary repairs and are sceptical about government efforts to assist.

“Government officials would like to upgrade factories and provide training but we can’t afford to support these plans. The government can’t offer loans to SMEs,” said U Ko Lay, who owns a factory in South Dagon industrial zone.

U Kyaw Aung, a factory owner in Thaketa industrial zone, said, “We would like the government to enact rules and regulations to keep industrial land price speculators from keeping prices artificially high. If this happens, we industrialists can develop the zones ourselves.”


Additional reporting by Htin Lynn Aung, translation by Thiri Min Htun