President proposes new foreign economic relations ministry as investment wanes


YANGON — President U Win Myint proposed the formation of a new Ministry for Investment and Foreign Economic Relations in a letter to the Union parliament on Tuesday, as foreign direct investment falls amid low business confidence and concern among Western investors over the Rohingya crisis.

Attorney General U Tun Tun Oo presented the request on behalf of Win Myint, explaining that the ministry would promote sustainable, accountable and responsible investment on behalf of the state and its citizens and would also manage economic assistance from the United Nations and international organisations.

Win Myint’s proposal, which will be debated on November 15, comes as the government struggles to meet its foreign direct investment targets. In the fiscal half-year from April to September, the Myanmar Investment Commission approved US$1.8 billion in foreign investment, well below its $3 billion half-year target.

Though Myanmar’s leaders including State Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi have been promoting investment overseas, a weakening and volatile currency, outdated laws and pervasive corruption are deterring foreign capital, while military atrocities in Rakhine, Kachin and northern Shan states continue to harm Myanmar’s international reputation.

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Tun Tun Oo told parliament that every country should seek to promote the interests of its people through constructive regional and international cooperation.

“In our 21st Century world, politics is inseparable from the economy and political development is directly related to economic cooperation,” he said, admitting the challenge of attracting international investment is now “bigger than before”.

He said the new ministry would handle international loans, provide the support and assistance needed for economic development and promote investment.

On assuming power in early 2016, the National League for Democracy-led government cut the number of ministries from 36 to 21, but it has also created three new ministries.

The Ministry of the State Counsellor’s Office led by Aung San Suu Kyi was formed in July 2016. In November 2017, two more ministries were created. These were the Ministry of the Office of the Union Government led by U Thaung Tun, which handles cabinet issues, administration, planning and economic affairs, and the Ministry of International Cooperation led by U Kyaw Tint, which took over some responsibilities from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs led by Aung San Suu Kyi.

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