Commerce Minister U Than Myint thanked Japan for its contribution to the success of the Thilawa Special Economic Zone at a Friday ceremony marking the start of work on the second phase of the project on Yangon’s southeastern outskirts, Kyodo reported.
“There were opportunities as well as many challenges in implementing this Thilawa SEZ. However, both the government and private sectors of Japan and Myanmar had successfully overcome these challenges to reach this far,” Than Myint was quoted as saying at the ceremony on February 23.
It marked the start of construction on the SEZ’s 101-hectare Zone B, immediately to the south of 405-hectare Zone A, on which work began in late 2013.
Zone B is due to be completed in mid-2018, with developer and operator Myanmar Japan Thilawa Development Ltd planning to have some sites available for lease by late this year.
Zone A is 95 percent occupied and MJTD said it anticipated strong demand for Zone B, Kyodo reported.
MJTD said 78 companies from 16 different countries and territories had so far invested more than US$1 billion to establish factories, production facilities or logistics operations at the SEZ, being established on a 2,400ha site.
About half of the companies are from Japan.
MJTD is a consortium of three big Japanese trading houses – Mitsubishi Corp, Marubeni Corp and Sumitomo Corp – which jointly hold a 49 percent stake in the company, with the rest held by the government and nine Myanmar companies.
Mr Masayuki Hyodo, managing executive officer of Sumitomo, said at the ceremony that even though Zone A plots are almost sold out, the huge project’s backers cannot afford to be complacent since Myanmar faces “severe competition” from neighbouring countries in attracting foreign investment.
“There exist some countries that have been favoured with billions and billions of dollars last year. We still need to double our efforts in this regard,” he told Kyodo.
Hyodo also said rising protectionist sentiment in Myanmar could create extra challenges to attracting foreign direct investment.
“Under such difficult circumstances, we have to enhance and keep the attractiveness of Thilawa SEZ to gain foreign direct investment to Myanmar by overcoming many challenges,” he said.