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Attracting quality investments: challenges and opportunities in Myanmar

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Published on Oct 6, 2015

In 2010, Myanmar opened a new chapter in its history. Since then, an impressive number of economic, political and legislative reforms have been introduced.

Myanmar’s central location in Asia, coupled with its mineral, hydropower, agricultural and tourism potential, have put the country in the spotlight for domestic and international investors.

Although Myanmar is determined to attract investment in all sectors, it has also started to realize that some investments can be more beneficial than others.

Investments in natural resources can create jobs and contribute to a country’s economic growth. But they may come with high environmental and social costs. Contamination of rivers, deforestation, land degradation, evictions and health hazards due to the overuse of hazardous chemicals are some of the most common costs associated with investments in natural resources around the world.

During the initial assessment of an investment, social and environmental losses which it may cause are often unseen, which means that the true economic cost is not counted.

Ecosystems, such as forests and watersheds, provide invaluable services to humans. Forests ensure clean air, protect the soil from erosion and regulate the climate. These services are provided free by nature, but losing them has an economic cost. Reconstructing an ecosystem or artificially reproducing its functions, such as cleaning the air and water, can cost millions of dollars.

The government is modifying investment laws, policies and practices. The Directorate of Investment and Company Administration has established a “One Stop Service” to guide investors on sectors to invest in. It includes being able to meet representatives from relevant ministries in a single building.

Myanmar is already taking important steps to formalize and regulate investment operations. Mingalardon Industrial Park represents the government’s commitment to infrastructure that can meet the needs of investors. The park has a regular power supply and is equipped with a wastewater treatment facility.

The UNDP-UNEP Poverty-Environment Initiative works in Myanmar with the Directorate of Investment and Company Administration to support the promotion of quality investment. That means investments, which are beneficial for Myanmar’s people, without unnecessarily high environmental or social impacts. It is crucial to support decision-making that takes into account the full spectrum of costs and benefits around an investment, particularly in the natural resources.

Myanmar has much to offer: A young population, a largely untapped hydropower capacity, abundant mineral deposits, vast swathes of fertile land and an extremely rich cultural heritage.

With fewer than 30% of its people having access to electricity and a quarter of the population living below the poverty line, Myanmar is determined to use its potential to create a friendly environment for investors.

By attracting quality investments, business has the opportunity to shape a sustainable development trajectory for Myanmar. It’s an important moment for Myanmar to make decisions that won’t compromise the future wellbeing of younger generations.

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