Myanmar’s President Thein Sein is tapping Singapore’s expertise in financial management and monetary policy as he aims to transform an economy isolated by Western nations for more than two decades.
Singapore officials agreed to train their Myanmar counterparts across a range of areas, including economic planning, central banking, trade facilitation and legal reforms, according to a statement issued yesterday by Singapore’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Thein Sein concludes a four-day visit to Singapore tomorrow.
Myanmar is seeking technical assistance from international financial institutions and would like to see a stock exchange in place soon, Thein Sein was quoted as saying in an interview published today with Singapore’s Straits Times newspaper. The government prioritizes peace and stability over economic development, the report said.
Thein Sein is consolidating political support among Asian nations as he pushes the U.S. and Europe to lift financial and economic sanctions. He has released hundreds of political prisoners, sought peace with ethnic minority groups and engaged in a dialogue with democracy advocate Aung San Suu Kyi, who will stand in April 1 by-elections.
“We welcome every foreign company that visits Myanmar,” Hla Maung Shwe, vice president of the Myanmar Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said in a Jan. 27 interview in Hong Kong. The end of sanctions would “have a huge impact on our economy,” he said.
Myanmar has the potential to quickly boost economic growth if the government modernizes the financial sector and makes it easier for companies to trade and invest by ending its multiple exchange rate system, the International Monetary Fund said on Jan. 25. Myanmar’s economy may grow 5.5 percent in the 2011-2012 fiscal year and 6 percent in 2012-2013 on commodity exports and higher investment, the IMF said.
Under Myanmar’s multiple exchange-rate system, the kyat is pegged to 8.5 per 1 IMF-issued special drawing right, equivalent to about 6.4 kyat per dollar. Unofficial rates are more than 100 times higher, trading at 770 kyat per dollar on Oct. 28, according to the Irrawaddy, an online newspaper for exiles from the country formerly known as Burma. The difference hinders trade and increases costs for foreign businesses, according to a 2008 IMF working paper.
Singapore and other members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations this month repeated a call for Western nations to lift sanctions against the former military dictatorship. The city-state was Myanmar’s third-largest trading partner in 2010 behind Thailand and China, according to statistics compiled by the European Union.
Singapore-based Yoma Strategic Holdings Ltd., a developer of properties in Myanmar, rose to the highest in more than four years yesterday in Singapore trading as the company may benefit from political reforms in Myanmar. The shares gained 5.6 percent to 37.5 Singapore cents as of 11:02 a.m. local time.