Jun 22, 2012

Bangladeshi businessmen poised to invest money in Myanmar

Bangladeshi businessmen are getting prepared to invest millions of dollars in Myanmar as the country has opened its market for rest of the world, stakeholders say.

Especially, the non-resident Bangladeshis (NRBs) are heading towards the neighbouring presidential republic to explore its untapped potentials.

A good number of Bangladeshi businessmen under the banner of Bangladesh-Myanmar Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BMCCI) and the Bangladesh Myanmar Business Promotion Council (BMBPC) have already visited the country to assess the post-reform situation.

BMBPC Chairman Syed Mahmudul Huq told the FE Wednesday that this is the appropriate time to be seriously engaged with Myanmar.

"I visited Myanmar early this month to assess the possibility of investing there as the country is carrying out economic and political reform. Both the government and private sector welcomed me and requested me to invest there," he said.

"They (Myanmarese) have got a lot of goodwill for Bangladesh," Mr Huq said adding "Myanmar has opened up lots of opportunities for us".

He said a good number of NRBs have expressed their interest to make a substantial volume of investment in Myanmar.

"They are American of Bangladeshi origin. They are arranging private equity investments," Mr Huq said replying a question but added that the recent political development in Myanmar may delay the process for a while.

He said there are opportunities to invest in Myanmar's service sector including telecom, information technology, tourism, aviation, fish and aquaculture, and agro-based industry.

"Myanmar's Parliament is scheduled to pass an investment law in July aiming massive economic reform. After the reform, foreigners will have cent per cent ownership of their investment there," Mr Huq said.

"Contact farming in Myanmar will help Bangladesh to meet its food demand as the underdeveloped agrarian country is going to extend the land lease tenure to 70 years from the existing 30 years," he added.

Mr Huq said many members of his organisation are interested to invest in Myanmar but cannot since the current account is yet to be made convertible.

Statistics show that the two-way trade remains in favour of Myanmar. In fiscal year (FY) 2010-11 Bangladesh exported goods worth only US$ 9.65 million while its imports were worth US$ 175.72 million.

Bangladesh mainly exports cement, pharmaceuticals, condensed milk, and electric cables to Myanmar while it imports rice, nuts, fish, and timber from there.

The two neighbouring countries had been carrying out business through informal channels over the years due to complications in international banking transactions. Apart from borders trade, some export-import activities, however, were done through the banking channel taking the help of banks of a third country.

Talking to the FE Wednesday BMCCI President KB Ahmed said there were various impediments to doing business with Myanmar 'which we have gradually removed'.

"The two countries are going to sign a coastal shipping agreement when Myanmar's president visits Bangladesh next month," he said.

Mr Ahmed said many Bangladeshi businessmen have already started exploring the potential there. "A Bangladeshi private commercial bank has opened its branch in Rakhaine state recently while another battery manufacturer is assessing its business potential and an agro-processing industry is extending its business in Myanmar."

He, however, said Bangladeshi businessmen still face visa problem to enter Myanmar but he is hopeful that it would be resolved soon, ushering in further trade prospects.

Source: The Financial Express