Decentralisation move in new investment law raises capacity fears

By KYAW PHONE KYAW | FRONTIER

YANGON — State and regional governments will be able to approve some foreign investment under the new Myanmar Investment Law, the deputy director of the Directorate of Investment and Company Administration said last week.

Daw Aye Sandar Lwin said foreign investment in priority sectors in states and regions would no longer need to be approved by the Myanmar Investment Commission.

The sectors were infrastructure, labour-intensive industries and agriculture, she said at a panel discussion on “Economic Development and Policy Directions in East Asia and Myanmar” hosted by the World Bank in Yangon on October 20.

Her comments came two days after the Myanmar Investment Law, that replaces the Foreign Investment Law of 2012 and Myanmar Citizens Investment Law of 2013, was signed off by President U Htin Kyaw.

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Aye Sandar Lwin said investment in the natural resources and capital-intensive sectors would continue to need MIC approval.

Panellist Ko Aung Thura, the founder and chief executive officer of Thura Swiss, said he welcomed decentralisation but raised concern about the capacity of state and regional governments to process applications.

The procedure and timeline for approvals should be decided by the Union government, Aung Thura said.

“There should be a clear process for the regional governments to follow; a clear benchmark, clear timeline defined at the central level,” he said.

Another panelist, Mr Melvyn Pun, the executive director and chief executive officer of Yoma Strategic, also stressed the importance of establishing clear procedures and timelines.

“It is important to set up clear procedures and timelines because there is a history of having laws approved in the past but by-laws never getting passed,” he said.

Another change in the new law eliminates a five-year tax exemption for all projects. Exemptions will instead be limited to promoted sectors and priority areas.

For example, investment in a promoted sector in Chin State will qualify for a seven-year tax exemption.

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