Interview: Serge Pun
What steps can the authorities take to boost investment in affordable housing?
SERGE PUN: First and foremost, the government must clarify the scope and purpose of its affordable housing projects. The development of these initiatives should serve people who could not afford a house otherwise, and it must principally serve this strata of society. In other countries the government provides affordable housing to people who only qualify by meeting certain requirements of need, which is currently not done in Myanmar.
How effective is Myanmar’s Condominium Law in comparison to similar legislation in other countries on property ownership?
PUN: Although the Condominium Law is a positive step in terms of property ownership legislation, it still lacks a comprehensive framework, which is internationally known as a Strata Titles Act. In the majority of countries this type of law defines how residents of multi-owner buildings divide up the ownership of the land that the property occupies, as well as the common areas. However, Congress passed the Condominium Law in Myanmar despite warnings that it governs only the units and not the land. Its provisions that condominium owners are responsible for paying the condominium fees could also pose some challenges. Local and international investors originally flagged this issue.
How do you evaluate Yangon’s ring road project and its potential to reduce congestion?
PUN: This project aims to alleviate the severe traffic congestion that Yangon suffers from. Congestion is a multifaceted problem that affects almost all areas of the city, and it is highly unlikely that a single ring road will solve such a challenge overnight. However, this programme is a good start and a positive step towards making Yangon a more navigable city.
To what extent do you think Myanmar can leverage Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) projects without taking on significant geostrategic risks?
PUN: It seems that many parts of the world have misconceptions about China’s aspirations. Many interpret the BRI as a policy that solely benefits China at everybody else’s expense, which is not necessarily the case. In Myanmar we need to encourage the government to use the BRI to our advantage and create a strategy that allows us to leverage the benefits without contradicting our policies or sacrificing our economic sovereignty.
The BRI is an opportunity for Myanmar, as it was designed to benefit countries that border China, and we have little to lose from gaining efficient infrastructure. A railway that runs across the country from Myitkyina or Muse to Yangon would give a multifaceted boost to many regions and sectors of our economy. We could benefit from a more efficient domestic land transport network, as it would facilitate both internal and external trade with China and other regional economies.
What is the timeline for the construction of infrastructure in New Yangon City, such as the water-treatment plants, bridges and power plants?
PUN: New Yangon City is adopting a rare tendering model similar to the globally recognised Swiss Challenge, which we are calling the NYDC Challenge. It requires public entities to publish unsolicited bids and invite third parties to compete against them in a healthy and transparent environment. We have a particular vision, and we are looking to receive as many project proposals as possible, which will enable us to avoid considering different methods, thus speeding up the bidding process. We hope to start construction of basic infrastructure by late 2018, and we aim to have the bridge, arterial road and the main utility network finished by December 2020.
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