Over the last few months Myanmar (Burma) has rarely been seen out of the news. A number of key milestones have been witnessed by both the Burmese people and the wider International community.
- The success of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and her National League for Democracy (“NLD”) party at the polls,
- the floatation of the Myanmar (Burma) currency (Kyat – pronounced Chat),
- the announcement in early April that the United States would relax sanctions on financial services with respect to certain humanitarian and not-for-profit activities in Burma,
- the announcement in mid May that the U.S. would issue a general license easing sanctions on the export of financial services and new investment (regardless of industry) in Myanmar (Burma)
- the attendance of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi at the World Economic Forum in Bangkok at the end of May 2012 (her first trip outside of Myanmar (Burma) in 24 years).
- And numerous international presidents, vice-presidents, prime ministers, ambassadors & dignitaries visiting to present their credentials.
Myanmar is currently the seventh largest economy in the ASEAN grouping with a 2011 GDP estimated at $83 billion and a GDP growth forecast of 6% for 2012/2013 and now that economic sanctions have been lifted or suspended some analysts predict that it could become ASEANs new tiger economy. The floating of the Kyat is an important first step in normalizing the country’s investment climate and curbing corruption whilst the easing of sanctions after 50 years of isolation is opening up the country to foreign investors.
Now that sanctions have been eased in Myanmar (Burma) it does not mean that doing business is suddenly straightforward! To quote Aung San Suu Kyi in her recent speech at the World Economic Forum “These days I am coming across what I call reckless optimism,' she said. 'A little bit of healthy skepticism I think is in order.'
Widespread corruption, a poor and questionable legal system, ethnic conflict, poor social & environmental safeguards and antiquated infrastructure present significant challenges to investors considering opportunities in Myanmar. Companies should consider how they would conduct business responsibly in Burma. It is important that companies and businesses interested in new investment opportunities do not overlook environmental considerations, international standards for good practice or their own corporate social responsibilities. Companies should proceed with caution and conduct detailed robust project-specific social and environmental due diligence at the local level that takes into account the specific industry, location & size to ensure that their investments do not have negative social, human or environmental impacts and do not bring excessive corruption risks.
SLP Environmental can provide award winning environmental and socio-economic assessment and management services to support our clients activities in the oil and gas, power generation, mineral extraction, property, agro-industrial, textile and manufacturing sectors in Myanmar.