Jun 8, 2013

Myanmar sets eyes on German investment

Myanmar is undergoing a major transformation. And the country is willing to show the world what years of reform-minded government have accomplished. In a DW interview the nation's president vows to step up reforms.

Myanmar's presidential palace in the capital city of Naypyitaw is monumental (main picture). It makes even the White House look like modest by comparison. It is located on a hilltop; its white columns are discernable from a distance. The former military rulers of the Southeast Asian country, formerly known as Burma, must have been thinking big when they commissioned its construction. Inside the palace, there is an abundance of shiny gold plating.

The home's current resident is President Thein Sein. He has been using the magnificent building since he took office in March 2011. The palace was also the location for an exclusive DW interview with the former general during the ongoing Asian edition of the World Economic Forum in Myanmar's capital.
DW talks to Thein Sein

DW journalists were joined by five camera teams from state TV during the encounter. The president himself was joined by four of his ministers, including the foreign and information minister. Diligent workers wrote down every single word the 68-year-old said in the interview.

Thein Sein seems to be keen on pushing for reforms the Burmese people can benefit from. "We strongly believe that with economic development we will have the ability to provide better education, better health services and that we can uplift the life of the majority of our people," he said.

Looking for German investors

But the Burmese leader added that he is upset that some people still don't believe in the country's development. The 68-year-old has been introducing reforms for the past two years and believes now is the time to for investors to come. "Germany is very famous for its small and medium enterprises," he said, stressing that his government would like those companies to invest more in Myanmar.

The Asian nation desperately needs to create jobs. Three million Burmese work abroad because they can't find employment in their homeland. There are no official unemployment figures in Myanmar, but one third of its population lives below the poverty line. This is one of the main reasons why the government is calling for long-term-investment by foreign companies.

Tackling poverty

Thura Ko, managing director of the consultancy firm YGA Capital, believes nonetheless the country must be selective and not rush to the first partner available. "The people must not be afraid of this foreign investment coming in; we should learn from it and adapt to it," he stated, adding that those who do no adapt "will suffer in the long run."

The young Burmese manager, who is also taking part in the World Economic Forum, is also concerned about growing income inequality in his country. "Myanmar's middle class may still be small, but these mostly well-educated people play a key part in the development of the country."

Issues surrounding the fight against poverty and improvements in education also top Thein Sein's agenda. Meanwhile, opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi urged government leaders in a press conference to "finally make good on their promises."

Later this evening Thein Sein will be hosting a gala dinner for his forum guests. By that time Suu Kyi is expected to have left the event. It seems she has more important things to do.

Source: DW