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» World Economic Forum
Publication Date : 02-06-2012
Myanmar will host the World Economic Forum (WEF) on East Asia next year, which it hopes will promote the country to potential investors and bring in badly needed foreign exchange.
Energy Minister Than Htay, who was in Bangkok on behalf of Myanmar’s Prime Minister Thien Sein, proudly unveiled the WEF's acceptance of Myanmar's invitation to the audience of the forum's Bangkok summit, which drew to a close yesterday.
Though Myanmar exports gas to Thailand, "we import other types of energy and petroleum products. All that needs hard currency," he replied to the question how the country handles foreign exchange income generated by the abundant natural resources.
As well, he said more income was necessary to allow his government to invest more on infrastructure projects.
In his 25-minute speech, Than Htay briefed business leaders on what his country has been doing and will do to ensure further political and economic reforms. Even as Myanmar's opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi pressed for advances in the rule of law, he said the country was moving towards democracy and restoring the rule of law to ensure that citizens were living "in peace and stability".
He also outlined the steps that the government has been taking to put in place a political process for reconciliation, which he apparently hoped would assure all stakeholders that this process would be carried out in a "free, fair and transparent manner".
On the political front, he highlighted the releases of political prisoners and the amendments of laws to allow the formation of labour unions as well as to protect civilians' rights.
Than Htay said the bottom line was that all this would develop Myanmar's economy more quickly.
On the economic front, reforms and long-term projects are being planned to put in place a market economy, he said. For example, there are reforms to make it easy and convenient to get business licences. A new foreign-exchange regime has been temporarily put in place to facilitate trade and investment.
The government is also taking steps to reduce transaction costs. All in all, the private sector will be strengthened through outside help.
On privatisation, he assured his audience that the benefits would not fall into the hands of a small number of people. The reforms are not only aimed at boosting gross domestic product, but also living standards, he said.
While speaking on the special economic zone in Dawei, Than Htay said Myanmar was welcoming investment in industry as well as tourism.
Last but not least, Myanmar, which will be the chair of Asean in 2014, hopes to draw investment from those who want to cash in on the regional integration, he concluded.