Sep 12, 2014

Myanmar Can Grow 9.8 Percent per Year: ADB

Myanmar has the potential to grow almost 10 percent per year if the country can maintain stability, invest in key sectors and stay connected to the rest of the world, the Asian Development Bank (ADB) said.

The Manila-based lender said the sweeping reforms in the Southeast Asian country require “substantial investment,” especially in the areas of education and infrastructure.

“The country at full potential can grow 9.8 percent per year,” said ADB assistant chief economist Dr Cyn-Young Park at a press conference, where ADB presented a report, Myanmar: Unlocking the Potential, on the current state of the Myanmar economy and its potential for growth.

“One Percent [GDP] growth can come from investment in education.”

Although public spending on education as a percentage of GDP has more than doubled since 2011, Myanmar still spends the least amount of money on education in Southeast Asia, according to the report.

The report mentions a “void” in skilled workers due to past neglect in health and education investment.

The inadequately educated workforce, along with the lack of access to financing, policy instability and corruption are the four most problematic factors for doing business in Myanmar, according to a World Economic Forum report.

Park said: “These are areas that the government is already working on, but needs to accelerate reform.”

Winfried Wicklein, country director for the ADB, said that the government has already signalled significant reforms, citing the issuing of telecom licences as evidence of the government’s commitment to opening the country.

The ADB report also outlines several strategies for increasing government revenue streams.

The report states, “The tax structure must be simplified and exemptions reduced. The current system is extremely complicated and this, together with low capacity in tax administration, means the tax that individuals and businesses actually pay is often arbitrary.”

Some reforms can be implemented in the short term without passing legislation, such as correcting leakages in the tax system, said Park.

Some of the recommendations would require new laws to be passed, such as the implementation of a value added tax. This could be done smoothly, said Park, as VAT is “relatively easy” for tax collection and covers a broad tax base. However, he conceded that VAT can negatively affect income distribution, and that some items would need to be excluded from the VAT.

One bright point in Myanmar’s economic future is the potential for the tourism industry. According to previous ADB and Myanmar Ministry of Hotels and Tourism forecasts, tourists visiting Myanmar would increase up to 700 percent between 2012 and 2020.

However, “The country is already bypassing the high growth scenario,” said Park, implying that a lot of infrastructure building is required to accommodate tourism development.

Wicklein said the ADB is currently financing 80 kilometres (50 miles) of an upgrade to the East-West Economic Corridor, planned to stretch from Mawlamyine to Da Nang in Vietnam, along with other projects in the areas of energy and community development.

Source: Myanmar Business Today

Sep 11, 2014

Vietnamese Investors to Pour in $1.5b in Myanmar

The Association of Vietnamese Investors in Myanmar (AVIM) hopes to raise its investment in Myanmar to $1.5 billion by 2015 in making Vietnam one of the five largest foreign investors in that country.

AVIM chairman Tran Bac Ha unveiled the target at a meeting with Speaker of Union of Myanmar Assembly Thura U Shwe Mann in Hanoi, Vietnam News Agency (VNA) reports.

Ha said businesses will work to help enhance two-way trade to $650 million to $700 million, and the number of Vietnamese tourists to Myanmar to 35,000 in the future.

AVIM representatives proposed that Myanmar’s government and parliament develop an “open-door” legal system and improve investment incentives for foreign investors.

They emphasised the need to have agreements on encouraging and protecting investment, and issuance of regulations on ownership of investment assets for Vietnamese firms n Myanmar.

The association hoped Myanmar will accelerate the licensing process for Vietnamese projects in the fields of textile, agriculture, health care, energy, construction material production, finance and banking.

Thura U Shwe Mann said Myanmar is learning from the experiences of other countries to improve its legal framework and to simplify administrative formalities to attract more foreign investment to the country.

Mann called on AVIM to continue acting as a bridge to bring more Vietnamese investment to Myanmar particularly in agriculture, hotel, tourism, finance and banking, and to contribute to deepening bilateral relations between both countries.

Established under an initiative by the Bank for Investment and Development of Vietnam (BIDV), AVIM comprises 76 members including PetroVietnam, Vietnam Airlines, Hoang Anh Gia Lai Group and Song Da Corporation.

At present, Vietnamese investors have seven projects worth $600 million in Myanmar with the biggest being Hoang Anh Gia Lai Group’s complex of hotels, apartments and offices worth $440 million.

Fifty-six Vietnamese businesses have been licensed to operate in Myanmar so far, according to Myanmar Investment Commssion (MIC) data.

Source: Myanmar Business Today

Mandalay Airport to Become Logistics Hub

Mandalay International Airport will be upgraded into a logistics hub, according to the Department of Civic Aviation (DCA).

The upgrade is expected to improve the airport so that it can provide cargo and distribution services for international and domestic goods.

“First, the airport buildings and terminals will be upgraded. This will be followed by preparation efforts to provide cargo service,” said U Win Swe Tun, director general at DCA.

Mitsubishi-Jalux, a Japanese firm, along with its Myanmar partner, SPA Project Management, has been awarded the tender to upgrade and operate the airport for a 30-year term.

“We have sent the proposal for the project to the Myanmar Investment Commission. We are sure it will be approved within the year,” U Win Swe Tun said.

The total area of Mandalay International Airport is 17,544 acres, while 3,682 acres are covered by runways and buildings. After the upgrade, the airport will have the capacity to serve 3.5 million passengers annually. According to DCA, the project is expected to cost K10 billion ($10.3 million).

The department plans to conduct upgrades to seven of Myanmar’s airports in the 2014-15 fiscal year. This includes Thandwe Airport in Rakhine state, Tachileik Airport, Naung Mon and Maisat Airports in Shan state, Loikaw Airport in Kayah state, Kalay Airport in Sagaing region and Koe Koe Island Airport in Yangon region.

Source: Myanmar Business Today

Sep 8, 2014

Taiwanese Association Eyes Almost Half-a-Billion Dollar Myanmar Industrial Park

The Taiwan Electrical and Electronic Manufacturers’ Association (TEEMA) said it will spend about $468.39 million (NT$ 14 billion) to develop an industrial park in Myanmar’s southern Ayeyarwady region in a bid to tap the lucrative growth potential of the recently opened country.

According to industry insiders, TEEMA has already signed a letter of intent with its local counterpart to solicit 1,400 hectares of land from the Myanmar government, according Taiwanese media reports.

The association has also commissioned Taiwan-based Sinotech Engineering Consultants Inc, a corporate consultant, to assess the feasibility of the project.

At a meeting with Taiwan’s Chinese National Association of Industry and Commerce, Economics Minister Woody Duh confirmed TEEMA’s project and said that the protection of Taiwanese investment in Myanmar is expected to see significant progress in the next two months, CENS reported.

Guo Tai-chiang, chairman of both TEEMA and the Cheng Uei Precision Industry Co, a leading contract maker of electrical connectors and adaptors, said that Japan and Korea are the most active countries in encouraging their firms to invest in Myanmar.

He said the Japanese government provides preferential financing aid, in association with local banks, to Japanese firms developing business in Myanmar.

Once the planned industrial park is in operation, Guo said, a thorough supply chain will likely be built, making it easier for Taiwanese firms it to explore the Myanmar market. This is especially significant given Taiwan’s lack of membership in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and the stalemate over the signing of a cross-strait agreement on trade in goods and services with China.

Guo said investment in Myanmar can be a good alternative to investment in China and Vietnam, as labour shortages and the recent anti-China rioting have aroused concerns among overseas Taiwanese firms operating in those countries.

Cheng Uei’s subsidiary, Foxlink, will see the Taiwanese migration into the planned industrial park by setting up a fossil-fuel power station there to help alleviate Myanmar’s power shortages.

Source: Myanmar Business Today

Sep 4, 2014

60 years of Germany-Myanmar relations

Myanmar's President Thein Sein is currently on a European tour. His first stop was Germany, and the president will also travel to the Netherlands and Switzerland. On Wednesday, September 3, Thein Sein had a lunch meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Myanmar's government did not reveal much about the agenda of the meeting, however, the country's press said the president would extend "friendship and cooperation" to Germany.
Diplomatic ties between the two countries date back to 1954 when the first German consulate in the Southeast Asian country was set up in Yangon. To mark the 60th anniversary of diplomatic ties - which have seen many ups and downs over the past decades - the German foreign office in Myanmar will organize an exhibition in early October.

Bilateral cooperation

German President Gauck visited Myanmar in February where he also met with pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi
After the World War II, Germany became Myanmar's (then known as Burma) second largest trading partner. At the time, the West German arms manufacturer Fritz Werner, supplied guns and ammunition to the Burmese armed forces that were engaged in a long battle with the former Chinese army (Kuomintang) in Myanmar's north.

As part of this cooperation which lasted until the 1970s, hundreds of Burmese soldiers, were trained, as analyst Hans-Bernd Zöllner points out in an essay to commemorate the 60 years of bilateral relations. In 1965, Fritz Werner went bankrupt, and was taken over by the state. The company, however, continued to provide assistance to the country's security forces.

"The cooperation between the German company and its Burmese partner strengthened the relations between the two governments," wrote Zöllner.
The 1962 military coup by General Ne Win did not harm German-Burmese ties. On the contrary, the General regularly visited the German region of Rheingau, where he met with government officials, politicians and businessmen. In the mid 1970s, Germany also initiated a number of other development projects in Burma under the auspices of the Society for Technical Cooperation (GTZ), which is now called GIZ.

Resumption of ties

The German-Burmese friendship ended abruptly, nevertheless, when the Southeast Asian country's military junta cracked down on a nationwide pro-democracy movement in 1988. Diplomatic relations between the two nations were reduced to a minimum, and the development cooperation was suspended.
23 years later, the diplomatic "ice age" ended as quickly as it had begun. Since late 2010, the government in Myanmar has triggered an unexpected reform process. In April 2012, the European Union lifted all sanctions against the country with the exception of the arms embargo. German President Joachim Gauck visited Myanmar in February this year, saying that "as long as the reforms are on the right track, they can't go fast enough."


Aung San Suu Kyi - A life for Myanmar

Aung San Suu Kyi is acclaimed internationally for her long struggle against Myanmar’s military junta that ruled the country until 2011. But criticism has mounted ever since she re-entered active politics. (08.04.2014)
Germans hesitant to invest in Myanmar

Gauck pays tribute to Burma's Aung San Suu Kyi

But the fast pace is also full of risks. "No one was prepared for the changes in Myanmar. Our knowledge of the country decreased during the years of sanctions," Gerhard Will, analyst at the German Institute for International and Security Affairs (SWP), told DW.
The focus of bilateral development cooperation is now set on medium enterprises and reforms of the financial system. Berlin is also supporting a project dealing with the training of journalists by the DW Academy.

"I am surprised that Myanmar's rural development is not our priority considering the fact that Germany has a great expertise in the area," Will said. "Cooperation in this sector would be interesting because we can achieve great results with little investment," he added. The expert is of the view that rural cooperation between the two countries would be helpful especially for the villagers who have so far not really benefited from the reforms.

Economic cooperation

On the economic front, the German commitment to Myanmar has so far not been very successful, says Will. The reason, he adds, is that China and Thailand have dominated Myanmar's market for a long time; hence it is difficult for German companies to compete with them.

German companies Henkel and Stada are now in the race. Henkel manufactures detergents, whereas Stada will start producing pharmaceutical products by 2015. Despite limited economic cooperation, Germany is still the EU's main trading partner for Myanmar. Germany and Myanmar are hopeful that the economic cooperation will expand soon.

Source: Deutsche Welle

Japan to Provide Three New Ferries for Yangon River

Japan is set to supply three new ferries to Myanmar in a bid to provide round trip service across the Yangon river, according to the Inland Water Transport Authority (IWTA).

In order to supply these ferries, the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) is collaborating with Myanmar and will be studying the waterway between Pansodan and Dala jetties over the next year.

Although the construction of the three ferries was completed over a month ago, they have not yet been transferred to Yangon.

Initially, the ships were to be driven to Myanmar, but due to bad weather in the South China Sea, they are to be delivered via a large ship arriving from Japan, said U Myint Than Tun, deputy director of marine division of IWTA.

“All three ferries are ready, but we cannot say for sure when they will get here because the Japanese side is arranging the transfer. They are looking for a large vessel, which has the capacity to load the three ferries, and will then head in our direction,” he said.

The pilots who will run the new ferries have been enrolled in a two-week training program in Japan. The ferries are named Cherry 1, 2 and 3 in reference to the cherry blossoms from Japan, U Myo Naing, deputy director of the transport division of IWTA, said.

“It’s good news that new ferries are coming. The current ferries are so crowded with vendors selling goods that even I feel sorry for the foreigners who take them,” told a commuter who comes to Yangon from Dala daily for work.

Currently, three ferries, named Htee Hlaing Shin, Kyan Sit Thar and Tapin Shwe Htee, make up the fleet that runs the route to and from Yangon and Dala. Two ferries operate daily as each one is inspected for repairs every two days. The ferries run from 5am to 9:30pm and transport 25,000 to 30,000 passengers daily, according to IWTA.

Source: Myanmar Business Today

Meet the New Rich…in Myanmar

YANGON, Myanmar — On this balmy Saturday evening at Yangon's Wardan jetty, dock workers have momentarily stopped loading and unloading crates from rickety fishing boats. Vegetable sellers that line the dusty road by the Yangon River are sitting quiet, and trishaw drivers, too, have stopped shouting out at passersby to offer them rides.

Instead, they are watching amused—and confused—as socialites from Hong Kong, London and beyond hike up their flowing skirts and gingerly tread on the dirt track, careful that their heeled shoes stay clear of potholes and muddy patches. Avoiding the oversized rats burrowing through garbage nearby, this sampling of the world's beautiful people is heading to Transit Shed 1, a rusting industrial warehouse whose corrugated iron roof and green exterior blends in seamlessly with the ramshackle jetty that surrounds it.

Yet the scene inside Transit Shed 1—or TS1, as its creators prefer it be called—is a world away from the rest of Myanmar, the poorest country in Asia after Afghanistan and Nepal. Contemporary art work featuring children with Burmese mythical dragons lines one wall, while a Who's Who of Myanmar society—everyone from former political prisoners to ambassadors—sip champagne with a host of young, wealthy, globetrotting compatriots.

It is opening night at the venue, part exhibition space and part retail venture. The brainchild of Ivan Pun, the 29-year-old Oxford-educated youngest son of one of Myanmar's richest tycoons, TS1 hopes to inject a new hip glamour to this decaying city that has undergone a celebrated political and economic transition in recent years after almost six decades of military rule.

And with hip, comes some eye-opening price tags. In an adjoining room, a bench made of teak from Myanmar's Shan state sells for $2,500. Blouses and other gifts carry labels for TS1's signature brand, MyanmarMade. Coming soon: The retail space will host a high-fashion showcase including designers like Proenza Schouler, purveyor of thousand-dollar satchels, and Prabal Gurung, the Nepalese-American fashion designer whose designs have been worn by the likes of Michelle Obama and Kate Middleton.

"We want to see if Myanmar is ready for something like this," Pun said later after the event, dressed in a black T-shirt and skinny jeans. "There is a thirst in consuming and buying that is not being satisfied."

Pun's vision is just the beginning of a new Myanmar, featuring glam and glitz that is funded, spearheaded and enjoyed by repatriates that escaped the country during its days under brutal military control. That dictatorship ended in 2011, when a new, nominally civilian government assumed power, and since then its leaders have loosened restrictions on public gatherings and opened the doors to foreign investment, leading Western governments to lift most economic sanctions. Now that Myanmar is embracing Western-style consumerism for the first time in more than a generation, Pun and his compatriots are playing tastemakers.

It doesn't seem to deter them that the country's gross domestic product per capita works out to only $1,700 per year, compared to $62,400 in Singapore or $52,800 in the U.S., according to the CIA World Factbook. Just behind the TS1 retail space, children prowl through garbage looking for toys to play with.

People in Myanmar "have not yet developed taste as consumers," Pun says. It's like starting from scratch, he says. "Some markets are set in their preferences—like India and Indonesia—but here we can curate our offerings and bring designers that are interesting to fashion editors in London, New York and Paris rather than what is commercially available."

“ This vision is just the beginning of a new Myanmar, featuring glam and glitz that is funded and enjoyed by repatriates that escaped the country. ”
CUT OFF FROM the outside world for so long, tropical Myanmar is following a trail blazed earlier by countries such as Russia, Vietnam and China that unlocked new wealth when they embraced elements of capitalism after decades of isolation. Their openings spawned scores of first-generation millionaires and billionaires—some through legitimate businesses, others through corrupt or illegal means—and experts expect Myanmar to be no different.

The country's economic reforms are creating big new opportunities as authorities issue licenses for everything from banking to oil-and-gas exploration to mobile-phone networks. Wealth-X, a consultancy that specializes in tracking the rich, says there are currently only about 40 individuals considered ultra-high-net worth in Myanmar, with investible assets over $30 million. But it says this number could grow by more than seven times in the next decade—the fastest such pace of growth anywhere in the world, the consultancy says.

Signs of a New Money boom are already appearing. After prohibiting imports of foreign vehicles for years except for top generals, the government has eased restrictions, and now showrooms boast black Rolls Royce sedans and Jaguar sports cars. Residents see Ferraris, Bentleys, Porsches and even a Bugatti Veyron—the fastest street-legal car make in the world—alongside rusty taxis that would look more appropriate on a scrapheap.

Prices for prime real estate in Yangon, Myanmar's commercial capital, are skyrocketing. A modest two-story, four-bedroom house in the exclusive Golden Valley neighborhood rents for as much as $10,000 per month, real-estate agents say. Families with older colonial-era bungalows are tearing them down and replacing them with colonnaded mansions, while their 20-something kids gather in nightclubs ordering Johnnie Walker blue label whisky.

Myanmar also is popping up on the radar screens of private wealth managers and luxury-goods brands hungry for a new source of growth at a time when China is slowing down. Myanmar residents spent only about $1.9 million on wine last year, according to consumer-market research firm Euromonitor International, but sales are expected to more than double by 2018. After that, the sky's the limit. Myanmar is "the last economic frontier in Asia with significant growth potential," Euromonitor says.

"Even I did not realize how much wealth there was here," says the young Pun, whose father, a property and banking entrepreneur named Serge Pun, has seen his estimated net worth swell by $100 million to $600 million over the past year, according to Forbes magazine. "When you look at mass gatherings, weddings especially, and see the lines of Ferraris and BMWs outside—people are not shy to show off."

“ A big question is whether Myanmar can absorb this new wealth without seeding class tensions. ”
A big question is whether Myanmar can absorb this new wealth without seeding the kind of class tensions that at times have threatened to destabilize other emerging markets, including some of those—like Russia and China—that eschewed displays of wealth in earlier times. Just a few years ago, Myanmar's leaders frowned upon conspicuous consumption, and the few families that held significant financial assets mostly tended to squirrel them away in overseas bank accounts rather than flaunt them at home.

Now, locals say benefits from the country's opening are accruing often to elites with ties to the former military junta. Some Myanmar business leaders are still targeted by Western economic sanctions because of alleged ties to drug trafficking, corrupt government contracts or wasteful extraction of natural resources.

"All the black money that people were hiding is now coming out," says Cheery Zahau, a democracy activist from Myanmar's Chin state whose work with the United Nations has been recognized by the George W. Bush Institute. For the rich, Zahau argues, it is a competition—one buys a Ferrari, and the other buys a Bentley, one builds a five-story mansion, and the next family, a six-story mansion. "It is sick. We don't need the World Bank or the IMF, we need these people—these very, very rich people—to spend money in a way that is not ignorant."

The country's newly-rich say the picture is a little more complicated. After all, they say, can people be blamed for wanting to splurge a little after so many years of privation?

Enlarge Image

Carl Moe Myint trains his sailing team at his father's sailing club in Yangon, Myanmar Photo by Kaung Htet for WSJ.Money
IT'S A BREEZY DAY in the midst of Myanmar's relentless monsoon season, and 29-year-old Carl Moe Myint is relaxing at the Yangon Sailing Club in a crisp blue shirt and black pants, his skin tanned from years on the waters off South Africa, Singapore and Thailand.

Founded in 1924 during the era of British colonial rule, the Sailing Club on a picturesque lake in the center of Yangon was ravaged during World War II, and again by a cyclone in 2008. More recently, its clubhouse, restaurant, bar and boat sheds have all been painstakingly restored, complete with wooden boards displaying names of past commodores—largely with funding from Moe Myint's family. The club now serves as a refuge for Myanmar's growing number of rich elites and expatriates—its membership increased by 30 percent in the past year—who enjoy relaxing surrounded by perfectly-clipped lawns.

Moe Myint's father, Michael Moe Myint, is a wealthy rare-book collector and sailing aficionado who also helms MPRL E&P Pte Ltd. Co., the largest privately owned oil and gas-services company in Myanmar. When 20 coveted tenders for offshore exploration were given out to foreign companies earlier this year, the elder Moe Myint's firm was a partner for four. (He and his company aren't targeted by Western sanctions, which prohibit business dealings with some individuals over links to the former military government.) The younger Moe Myint is focusing on other passions, he says.

"As long as our family is here, sailing will be here," Carl Moe Myint says as boats glide by in the background. Having returned from the Colorado School of Mines in 2008, where he majored in economics, Moe Myint now is working on an even bigger project than restoring Yangon's historic Sailing Club: helping turn Ngwe Saung, a coastal town four hours away by car, into an international sailing playground.

Central to the plan: the $17 million Ngwe Saung Yacht Club, a resort and yachting center his family launched last year at the far end of Ngwe Saung's nine-mile stretch of pristine sand. Built entirely with family money, it features an infinity pool overlooking the ocean, villa suites with verandas and a nightclub—all in an area where many residents still live in dilapidated wooden homes and only get electricity a few hours per day.

"Money was not the issue, we did this for the sport of sailing, and to make sure that with our revenue, the sport can survive here," he says in a flawless American accent.

Carl Moe Myint says he would like to develop the yacht club into a major marina in the next decade, with sailing enthusiasts from Myanmar and beyond parking their boats there.

"Because of reforms," he says, "there is a lot of wealth splashing around." The shame of it, he says, is that too few of Myanmar's rich want to spend money on developing their passions, and would rather spend it frivolously in nightclubs. Investments in public amenities like art galleries or public parks, much less major philanthropic initiatives, remain scant.

Other well-off residents concur. Patrick Robert, a 67-year-old French architect who has lived in Yangon for more than 20 years, says he has been frustrated by how little local elites seem to care about spending their money well. A former museum curator, he now designs homes, hotels and restaurants for wealthy clients around the world and works on preservation projects.

He is helping restore several of Yangon's decaying, mildewed colonial structures from the early 1900s. But, sitting in his Golden Valley bungalow surrounded by servants in exquisite uniforms of tight-fitted cap-sleeved shirts and Myanmar longyi sarongs, mixing glasses of Hendrick's gin and tonic, he says the demand for his designs is largely coming from expatriates and Western businessmen who want a Yangon base for new business ventures—not Myanmar's local gentry.

In April, Robert says, he helped organize a trip for a wealthy Myanmar man and his wife and two children to Europe—a man, he says, who was recently removed from Europe's sanctions list but is still blackballed by the U.S. Since it was the man's first trip to Europe, he wanted Robert to connect him to all the splendors the continent had to offer.

Robert arranged a private viewing at the Louvre in Paris during early morning hours when it is free of tourists, he says. But this businessman was not interested.

"One week in London, Rome and Paris and everything was buy, buy, buy. Chanel this and Louis Vuitton that, just buy buy buy," he says. The Myanmar millionaire, he says, was most grateful that Robert helped him procure a Hermès Birkin bag for his wife in a single day, rather than the usual wait of anywhere between three weeks to several years for an accessory that costs as much as $80,000.

"This class of new wealthy, they are giving me a lot of problems," he says.

“ Too few of Myanmar's rich want to spend money on developing their passions, and would rather spend it frivolously in nightclubs. ”
IN DOWNTOWN YANGON, Ivan Pun leans back in a brown leather swivel chair at the Pun+Projects office, the firm he founded to work on what he calls "luxury retail concepts," starting with Transit Shed 1.

A pencil holder is filled with a dozen perfectly sharpened black pencils. Copies of stylish magazines like Monocle and Apartamento lie perfectly arranged on his desk. From his corner office on the 8th floor of the 11-story FMI Center—one of Yangon's only tall office buildings, built by his father to house the head offices of the Serge Pun & Associates Group—the younger Pun overlooks the streets of downtown Yangon, its tattered buildings drenched with rain and the golden Sule Pagoda sparkling in the distance. (Like Moe Myint, Pun's family is not targeted by Western sanctions).

On this Monday, he is chairing a meeting on TS1, discussing every aspect of the project from sales of art to upcoming exhibitions and the logistics of a restaurant—called Port Authority—in the shed just a few doors down from the TS1 space. Scheduled to open soon, the shed is facing a problem familiar in Myanmar: how to get electricity in to power the restaurant. The discussion then veers to how to keep flies out of TS1, a constant struggle since garbage litters the jetty.

He is interrupted three times in 10 minutes by his constantly ringing phone, and at one point in the meeting, he juggles two calls at once—one with the director of TS1's art exhibitions in Beijing, and another personal call on his cellphone. His staff—all in their late 20s and early 30s—clamor for his attention, as Pun signs off on every detail at TS1, from staff uniforms to how much of a discount to give on art as exhibitions come to an end.

Things are especially hectic on this day, Pun says, because he is just about to embark on a three-week trip to Hong Kong, Tokyo, New York and finally Brazil for the World Cup. In the U.S., he says, he will have the opportunity to check in on a pop-up shop in the East Hamptons, where products from his MyanmarMade brand are being sold all summer.

Pun says he has "a certain level of taste" from his time around the world that allows him to bring a variety of concepts to Myanmar. Growing up almost entirely in England, he was educated at the Cranleigh School, a boarding school in the town of Surrey, until he was 18. After making his way into Oxford University to major in Oriental studies, he dropped out in 2007—the major "didn't quite interest" him, he says—to pursue fashion and music. This brought him to Condé Nast in midtown Manhattan, where he worked on special editorial projects at Vogue magazine and another, now-defunct publication run by Anna Wintour.

He returned to Asia in 2009, working for a while in Beijing on a menswear line with some friends. Eventually he was lured back to his homeland of Myanmar in 2011, working for his father's conglomerate, which also has interests in manufacturing, retail and virtually every other major sector in the country. His last gig was in corporate development, before he broke off to set up Pun+Projects.

Last year, he hosted a private screening of the "Great Gatsby" in Yangon attended by his friend, Baz Luhrmann, the movie's director. Next, he says, he might consider inviting Wes Anderson for a similar private screening of his latest movie, "Grand Budapest Hotel," or organize a larger film festival.

When W Magazine staffers made a trip to the country last year to produce a 20-photo spread by photographer Tim Walker, Pun was, of course, in the loop. The series, titled "Gilt Trip," featured model Edie Campbell wearing Lanvin-label clothes near the sacred Golden Rock, a Buddhist pilgrimage site south of Yangon, and jumping with Kayan tribal "long-neck" women with brass rings around their necks.

Later in the day, Pun rides in a large white Toyota 7203.TO +0.16% minivan to TS1, replying to emails on his phone in the backseat—an impressive feat considering that Myanmar's primitive telecom system doesn't support such services in most places. It's OK, though, because the van is kitted out with its own Wi-Fi.

At TS1, he inspects products from its new retail offering, including furniture from the avant-garde, Chinois-style luxury brand Lala Curio, a Hong Kong-based interior designer. He sits on a $16,500 couch and picks up a decorative item of peacock feathers stuck on a wooden block, checking its retail price. It is $65.

His hope, he says, is that he helps create an environment that "isn't just for Yangon, but is about what we believe is cool, and are bringing here to Yangon." And it certainly doesn't feel out of place in such a rough-hewn country, he says.

"It is not too early to start thinking about this" in Myanmar, he says, leaning back in his chair. "Wages are increasing, wealth is increasing—we don't know how long this is going to take, but it will happen.

Source: Wall Street Journal

 
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