Doing Business in Myanmar Has Just Gotten a Little Easier: World Bank Report

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Trucks pass the sprawling Asia World Port Terminal along the Yangon River in Yangon, Sept. 14, 2016.
Trucks pass the sprawling Asia World Port Terminal along the Yangon River in Yangon, Sept. 14, 2016.

The business regulatory environment in Myanmar has improved during the past year thanks to reforms that have reduced regulatory complexity for domestic businesses and improved the country’s credit information system, according to an annual report issued on Wednesday by the World Bank

The bank’s 356-page “Doing Business 2017” report examines regulations conducive to business activity and those that constrain it, and measures aspects of regulation affecting 11 factors in running a business.

Myanmar received an overall ranking of 170 out of 190 economies on the ease of doing business based on individual rankings in 10 categories—starting a business, dealing with construction permits, getting electricity, registering property, getting credit, protecting minority investors, paying taxes, trading across borders, enforcing contracts, and resolving insolvency.

In last year’s report, the country placed 171.

“To get a good score, we need fewer procedures in setting up a business,” said Aung Naing Oo, director general of Myanmar’s Directorate of Investment and Company Administration (DICA).

“All related departments have to work on having fewer procedures, finishing on time, and working with lower costs. We have many procedures in business because of some laws, rules, and regulations set by the ministries.”

The report covered the commercial capital Yangon in evaluating these various factors. Myanmar was cited for making starting a business easier by reducing the cost to register a company, simplifying the process by removing a requirement for a reference letter and criminal history certificate in order to incorporate a company, enhancing a law for the establishment of a new credit bureau, and introducing a minimum wage and changing the regulation regarding severance pay.

But the report also noted that the Southeast Asian country made trading across borders more difficult with higher costs and time delays due to congestion at the port of Yangon, which handled nearly 617,200 twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs), a measurement that is used to describe the capacity of container ships and container terminals.

It also pointed out that Myanmar fails to let bidders access the outcomes of the tendering process online.

‘It’s a race’

Many other countries besides Myanmar advanced in the 2017 ranking as well.

“The thing about rankings is that other countries are improving at the same time [as Myanmar], so in a way it’s a race,” said Charles Schneider, senior operations officer at the World Bank, following a press conference in the capital Naypyidaw.

“Myanmar made improvements; other countries also made improvements,” he said. “So even with the reforms that were recorded this year, Myanmar did go up one rank because other countries also are improving.

“I think an important part of the equation is to think about how much you can reform compared to others,” he said.

Officials from Myanmar’s Ministry of Planning and Finance and the Myanmar Traders Association also attended the press conference.

The report comes a week after Myanmar President Htin Kyaw enacted the Myanmar Investment Law which merges two existing laws for citizen and foreign investors, so that one is not favored over the other.

The new law’s rules and regulations will be released in three to five months, the online journal The Irrawaddy reported on Wednesday, citing Maung Win, deputy minister of planning and finance.

Last month, State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi, Myanmar’s de facto leader, visited the United States where she tried to drum up investment for Myanmar among members of the American business community to propel the country’s growth. She did the same on an official trip to India last week.

Reported by Win Ko Ko Latt for RFA’s Myanmar Service. Translated by Khet Mar. Written in English by Roseanne Gerin.





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