Friday, August 18, 2017

President amends Foreign Investment Law after vote, "investor-friendly"

President U Thein Sein last week enacted amendments to the foreign investment law, a day after they were approved by the Pyidaungsu Hluttaw, ending months of speculation and debate.

On the president’s recommendation, hluttaw representatives on November 1 revised a version of the bill they approved less than two months earlier to make it more “investor-friendly”.

The president signed the changes into law on November 2.

“Investors are waiting for the bill to be approved. That’s why he signed it as soon as he could,” said U Zaw Htay, an official in the President’s Office.

He said the former general wanted to enact the bill before flying to Laos to attend a major summit of Asian and European leaders which starts on November 5.

President U Thein Sein returned an earlier version of the bill, approved by the hluttaw on September 7, to parliament with 11 proposed changes, amid concerns it was too protectionist.

Ten of the president’s 11 changes were approved, with Pyidaungsu Hluttaw representatives taking exception to the proposal that Myanmar’s workers who have the same qualifications and experience as foreign workers should have equal rights in terms of wages.

The proposed changes had been reviewed by the Joint Bill Committee before the vote and the Pyidaungsu Hluttaw accepted all of its recommendations.

Representatives said the most significant change was the removal of a 50 percent limit and 35pc minimum on foreign investment in 13 restricted sectors. Under the final version, the investment ratio is negotiable between the investor and their local business partner.

“I like the flexibility shown by the hluttaw bill committee,” said Daw Aung San Suu Kyi. “I think they did it in the interests of the people.”

The National League for Democracy leader would not comment on whether the changes would protect the interests of domestic business owners, some of whom lobbied parliament hard for protectionist changes to the draft submitted by the government.

The bill to amend the existing investment law, which dates to 1988, was first submitted to the parliament in March and had been the subject of extensive debate, with some initially arguing it unfairly favoured foreign investors over local firms.

“The bylaw will tell us a lot so we can only say after seeing the bylaw,” she said.