New laws to ease restrictions on foreign companies

Planned changes to the Myanmar Companies Act could enable foreign investors to hold up to 35 percent in a domestic firm, the Nikkei Asian Review has reported.

The act, which is more than 100 years old, says a company is foreign is a foreigner holds even one share. This has restricted access to capital and investment by domestic companies, and has also precluded foreign investors buying shares on the Yangon Stock Exchange.

NAR quoted Directorate of Investment and Company Administration director general U Aung Naing Oo as saying that the amendments will be submitted first to the government and then the parliament. Approval is expected by the end of the year, he said, adding that the new rules could open up the agriculture, fishing and trade sectors to foreign investors.

The government is also planning other reforms aimed at improving the investment climate, NAR reported. It plans to relax rules on long-term land leases for foreign businesses, which currently require government permission.

It is also working to combine the foreign and Myanmar citizens’ investment laws – both of which were passed by the previous government – into a single investment law. At the same time, it plans to cut red tape and improve transparency. Aung Naing Oo, who is also secretary of the Myanmar Investment Commission, said the government wants to digitalise investment filings within two years, while the number of DICA offices will rise from eight to fifteen by the end of the 2017-18 financial year.

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The National League for Democracy government has been widely criticised over lack of clarity on its economic policies and plans. A three-page economic outline launched at the end of July was greeted with disappointment due to a lack of detail, but the government has said it plans to release detailed plans on a sector-by-sector basis.

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