MIC chair U Thaung Tun to lead new foreign economic relations ministry

By KYAW LIN HTOON | FRONTIER

YANGON — Myanmar Investment Commission chair U Thaung Tun will lead a new Ministry for Investment and Foreign Economic Relations that will be formed from two existing departments, as parliamentarians ask whether another ministry is really needed.

President U Win Myint announced Thaung Tun’s appointment and the formation of the new ministry on November 19. The investment ministry will take over the Directorate of Investment and Company Administration and the Foreign Economic Relations Department from the Ministry of Planning and Finance.

Win Myint had informed parliament of his intention to create the ministry on November 12 and on November 15 nine representatives discussed its formation.

A former diplomat, Thaung Tun has risen quickly within the government since his appointment in January 2017 as National Security Adviser. In November 2017 he became Minister for the Office of the Union Government, one of two new ministries created that month. Since his appointment as MIC chair on June 5, 2018 he has travelled extensively overseas to promote investment.

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Analysts told Frontier they believe that U Min Thu, Deputy Minister for the Office of the Union Government, will be promoted to replace Thaung Tun as minister for that office, but as of November 21 the government has made no announcement regarding the position.

According to two officials who requested anonymity, the new investment ministry will work closely with the Ministry for Planning and Finance, the Ministry for Commerce and the Myanmar Investment Commission. Additional departments from the existing ministries could be transferred to the new ministry, they said, or would work closely with it through the creation of joint departments.

U Sein Win, Pyithu Hluttaw representative for Maubin said at the November 15 session that the government should submit details of the ministry’s structure and its objectives to parliament.

Sein Win, who resigned from the National League for Democracy in July 2017 to become an independent MP, said there was a need to consider whether forming a new ministry would benefit Myanmar and said he doubted there was sufficient time under the current administration for the ministry to achieve its aims.

The government has just over two years left in office and is likely to spend the last six months of its term preparing for the 2020 election, Sein Win said, warning that this may not leave enough time for creating a well-functioning ministry.

If the ministry is absolutely necessary, he said, the government should discuss it with experts first. “Since our country is still poor, we must minimise government expenditure,” he said.

Dr. Soe Tun, chair of Myanmar Automobile Development Public Company Limited, sees the ministry as a technical solution that would enable Thaung Tun to access the departments that he needs to manage in his capacity as chair of the MIC.

As minister for the office of the Union government Thaung Tun did not control DICA, which has been overseen by U Soe Win, the Minister for Planning and Finance. Previously the positions of MIC chair and finance minister were both held by U Kyaw Win until his resignation in May 2018.

Soe Tun said he welcomed the new ministry, because he believed it would promote investment and improve economic relations overseas, but he said the government should listen to concerns about its cost. “If this ministry can work effectively, its cost will be recovered through the economic benefits. But if the ministry is ineffective, the criticism will be validated,” he said.

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