Nov 2, 2012

Myanmar MPs approve business-friendly investment law

Myanmar's parliament on Thursday approved a revised, more business-friendly foreign investment bill aimed at boosting the struggling economy as it emerges from decades of junta rule, lawmakers said.

The bill is expected to be signed into law within days by reformist President Thein Sein, who sent an earlier draft back to parliament amid concerns that it was too protectionist.

"I think the law will be quite flexible and easier for foreign investors," Zaw Htay, an official at the presidential office, told AFP by telephone.

"The previous law had restrictions which could be barriers. Even some foreign experts described it as the 'No Investment Law'," he said.

An earlier limit of 50 percent for a foreign investor's stake in a joint venture has been dropped at Thein Sein's request, and the new version allows the investment ratio to be decided by the foreign and local partners, MPs said.

More detailed rules for each sector will be drawn up by the Myanmar Investment Commission.

"The law became more flexible for foreign investors. The former version had many restrictions," said Myat Nyana Soe, a lawmaker with Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy opposition party.

The move comes as global corporate giants from Coca-Cola to General Electric line up to enter the impoverished but resource-rich nation, which is emerging from decades of military rule and international isolation.

One of the major complaints of businesses eager to enter the country formerly known as Burma has been the lack of a clear legal framework.

Myanmar is seen by many investors as the next regional frontier market as businesses eye its huge natural resources, large population and strategic location between China and India.

President Thein Sein has vowed to put the economy at the centre of a new series of reforms, following dramatic political changes since almost half a century of outright military rule ended last year.

Source: AFP