Interview: U Nyan Tun Aung

What factors were considered in the decision to privatise state-owned enterprises such as the Myanmar Port Authority (MPA)?

U NYAN TUN AUNG: Even though Myanmar adopted a market-oriented economy in 1988, its economic policy was based on centralised planning, budgeting and state ownership of all means of production and services, including the ports. Prior to the privatisation of Myanmar’s state-owned enterprises such as the MPA, the port revenues collected were directly injected into the central government and formed part of the national budget. However, it became clear that the MPA was suffering under this type of centralised budgeting, which was hindering the development of the port. This was particularly true for the advancement of port facilities, which suffered from a lack of government spending. It was therefore decided to privatise the MPA, with the aim of developing all the ports of Myanmar and supporting economic development through port business.

The privatisation will systematically adopt terms and conditions for granting port business to local and foreign investors that adhere to international standards. The privatisation will also enable the MPA to cooperate with other countries and organisations in order to be more efficient in port operations. This will act as a buffer in the years to come and will ensure the development of Myanmar’s freight-handling capacity, which will in turn encourage investment in the country as the supportive industries grow.

What other projects do you consider crucial for Myanmar to improve its connectivity with ASEAN, and what plans are in place to increase the ease of access for ASEAN members?

AUNG: The main concern for the Ministry of Transport is aviation and navigation. Infrastructure development projects such as deep-sea ports, inland ports, inland navigation channels and port access channels are considered vital for improving connectivity with the ASEAN bloc. To accompany the deep-sea port, Myanmar is also constructing a 566-ha special economic zone in the neighbouring seaport town of Kyaukphyu, which will become an important trading centre in Asia, connecting the economies of China, India and Southeast Asia. The Dawei deep-sea port development project has the potential to be a gateway for trade with the western side of ASEAN and can promote trade between South-east Asia and other countries in the region. Step by step, Myanmar will play its part in enhancing ASEAN connectivity, which is essential to achieving the broader goals of the ASEAN community.

What infrastructure investments are needed to increase the capacity of Myanmar’s aviation sector?

AUNG: First, IT infrastructure in all airports should meet international standards. This will take time and considerable investment. Second, navigational aids should be raised to international standards. Last, engineering and flight training schools, including full flight simulators, should be in place, along with a national aviation policy, which is currently being developed. Progressive steps are being taken, such as those by the Department of Civil Aviation, which, together with MCJalux Airport Services Company, will start to operate the Mandalay International Airport to establish a logistics hub and upgrade the airport to international standards of safety, service and efficiency.

What potential does Myanmar have to become a trans-shipment hub?

AUNG: There is good potential thanks to certain characteristics. Myanmar is fortunate enough to be blessed with a geographically strategic location; it is surrounded by densely populated countries such as India and China. It also has a long coastline, which increases the potential for port development. Besides the deep-sea port, Myanmar has plans to establish numerous ports, including inland ports and dry ports. These ports will contribute to regional corridor development and help facilitate logistics in the country.