Myanmar State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi has recently announced that the government will be developing a new special economic zone in the Mon State in the eastern part of the country in an effort to create jobs and encourage foreign investment.
She spoke during a video conference at an online investment forum that was attended by Japanese bodies such as the Japan Business Federation, or Keidanren. Counsellor Suu Kyi said that job creation remains at the heart of the nation’s development plan, especially during these trying times post-COVID-19.
The government has plans to develop infrastructure in this new economic zone. This includes a seaport and industrial park on the coast of Mon State on the Indian Ocean. In addition, a planned highway linking Thailand and Vietnam will pass through Mon State.
At the conference, Investment and Foreign Economic Relations Minister Thaung Tun said: “This new economic zone shall be bigger and better connected than any other economic zones in Myanmar.”
Myanmar is hoping to draw more foreign direct investment through the construction of this zone. Japan in particular is of great interest to the nation as it has been one of Myanmar’s main investors over the years. According to the Myanmar government, Japanese investment in Myanmar between 2011 and now has exceeded US$1.7 billion.
“Because of the coronavirus, there will be a movement to reconsider the supply chain, and I think that Myanmar will receive more attention due to the possibility of factory relocations,” said Ken Kobayashi, chair of Keidanren’s Japan Myanmar Economic Committee.
One of Myanmar’s main exports are garments and cloth, but the industry has been hit particularly hard by the COVID-19 pandemic. The country had only about 350 confirmed cases, a relatively low number, but enough to warrant precautions. Counsellor Suu Kyi believes that a V-shaped economic recovery was possible in 2021.
Currently, there are three special economic zones under development but only one is operating, the Thilawa economic zone which was jointly developed with Japan. The economic zone in Kyaukpyu in the west of the country will be jointly developed with China, although construction has not started yet.
Counsellor Suu Kyi said a new industrial park will also be developed west of Yangon, and the tender process will start soon. The industrial park was thought to be initiated by the Chinese, but Myanmar will invite Japanese companies to participate in the project.