Wednesday, February 01, 2012

Open for Business

The EU, the US and Canada are considering how and when they will ease sanctions imposed over the past 20 years on the brutal military authorities that rule Myanmar (Burma). Travel restrictions on senior Burmese officials were lifted by the EU. A full review of the sanctions is scheduled for April. Senior European politicians including William Hague, the British foreign secretary, and Alain Juppé, his French counterpart, have visited Burma in recent months to "encourage" the changes. Hillary Clinton came late last year, the first US secretary of state to travel to Burma for more than 50 years.

There is no shortage of interest from global and regional businesses. Hotels are full as business delegations arrive. Hundreds of the world's biggest companies are making plans to move into the country . They hope to make millions as the repressive regime seeks to reintegrate in the international community. A recent Japanese delegation included officials from Hitachi and Toshiba. Senior executives at Standard Chartered bank have said they are "looking at the changes very closely". India's Tata Motors car and truck manufacturer is keen too. Luxury hotel chains such as Marriot have said they are keen to establish a presence.

The enthusiasm for investment is undeniable. "If you can find ways to invest in Myanmar [Burma] you will be very, very rich over the next 20, 30, 40 years," Jim Rogers, the chairman of Rogers Holdings of Singapore, told Bloomberg TV .

Myanmar's government said at the World Economic Forum in Davos it planned to offer eight-year tax exemptions to foreign investors

Burma's generals in effect still control parliament after a deeply flawed 2010 election. Upmarket shopping malls in the centre of Rangoon cater to a new elite, often connected to the powerful clique of top military officers who still dominate the economy.

In the narrow, mosquito-infested lanes of Bothun San, no one is expecting miracles soon. There is no sanitation in the illegal settlement and haphazard electricity – a situation unlikely to improve for the foreseeable future.

"The rulers don't come here. No one comes here and nothing changes," said 48-year-old Myan Maun, a vegetable hawker

Taken from here

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