Interview : U Zaw Myint Maung
Which features make Mandalay stand out as an attractive investment destination?
U ZAW MYINT MAUNG: One of the region’s biggest business assets is export-oriented agri-products, such as beans, pulses, rice, fruit and vegetables. For example, we have over 15 different varieties of mango, which are in high demand in Russia, China, South Korea and Japan. Another distinctive feature of Mandalay is its culture of entrepreneurship: the region’s business network contains over 50,000 small and medium-sized enterprises. Additionally, Mandalay’s tourist attractions are also key draws for investors. There are three ancient cities in the region: Bagan, which is soon be listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site; Mandalay City, the former royal capital; and Amarapura, also known as the Eternal City. Moreover, Mandalay is located between the two biggest emerging economies in the world – China and India – and benefits from well-connected transport infrastructure. These factors combine to make the region an attractive investment destination, with over 13 different countries investing around $3.4bn in the region in 2018.
What industries do you perceive as offering the best investment opportunities in the region?
ZAW MYINT MAUNG: I would underline agri-business as one of the top investment opportunities. I believe our abundant natural resources and arable land, along with the proximity to markets such as China and India make the region an attractive investment destination for both foreign and local investors. Developing this sector would therefore raise profitability and competitiveness throughout the value chain.
Some of our peers are already working on different segments of agri-business. For instance, Korean companies have now implemented post-harvesting technology in some prominent farmlands, while the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) is focusing on aquaculture activities. These provide appealing opportunities for international firms with the relevant background and expertise. Furthermore, the textile industry is set to grow over the coming years, particularly with an influx of workers from China. The newly established Myotha Industrial Park provides all the facilities required to set up garment production, including land and human resources, as well as basic utilities such as electricity and water.
How are the regional and national governments securing funding for the Mandalay Resort City?
ZAW MYINT MAUNG: The national government received six expressions of interest for the development of this mixed-use project. From these, three companies were selected, which are now submitting feasibility studies. An executive committee has been established at the national government level to support the financing and sustainable development of the project. Mandalay Resort City has already drawn the attention of many foreign investors, as the transparent framework in place will enable them to smoothly establish and operate their businesses. In particular, some prominent ICT firms have expressed interest, and I expect joint ventures to be announced shortly.
In what terms would you define the economic rationale behind the Mandalay Port’s construction?
ZAW MYINT MAUNG: In Myanmar we have three means of transporting cargo, of which aviation is the most expensive and river transport the most cost effective. Road transport is also sometimes costly given the size of the country. Meanwhile, waterways allow companies to transport large volumes at a lower price. For this reason the government, in cooperation with JICA, plans to build Mandalay Port. A feasibility study is being conducted by JICA and will soon be completed. The regional government is arranging the fair compensation of farmers to supply land for the project and we expect it to break ground in 2019.
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