AmCham Hong Kong: Myanmar’s Awakening: Political Change, Economic Reforms

May 17, 2012 (Thu)

Hans W. Vriens
Managing Partner
VRIENS & PARTNERS Pte Ltd

Hosted by the Financial Services Committee and Apparel and Footwear Committee
On the evening of April 1st, a huge and joyous gathering was organized in front of the National League for Democracy (NLD) headquarters in Yangon. Following those by-elections, Aung San Suu Kyi will lead the largest opposition group in the Lower House, though with less than 10% of the total seats. She has accepted to become part of a constitutional system conceived by the military, with the aim to liberalize it from the inside. A moderate and constructive approach will be needed in order to avoid alienating the military-backed USDP which just experienced a humiliating defeat, to gain the confidence of many in the military who have suspicions about Aung San Suu Kyi’s leadership abilities, and to reassure conservatives that they will not lose out during the reform process.

Internally, a key challenge for Myanmar is to create strong civilian institutions that can progressively assert control over the military. The basis for these institutions is provided for in the current system, but with the military constitutionally entrenched with 25% of parliamentary seats and the influence of former regime figures remaining strong, maintaining a fast pace of reform may prove challenging.

In addition to reforming its political system, Myanmar must simultaneously reform the economy. The country is currently one of the poorest in Asia, with an extremely challenging business environment. The dismantling of western sanctions will be an important aspect of Myanmar’s opening up to the world. However, sanctions are easier to adopt than to lift and their complete withdrawal will take time. Beyond sanctions, the key to unlocking Myanmar’s substantial economic potential is a multi-faceted reform of its economy and investment climate. This should involve a process of improving transparency and the rule of law, increasing the capacity of the State, building infrastructure, privatizing SOEs, liberalizing key sectors, pursuing the reform of the exchange rate system, etc. These steps are critical to inclusive, sustainable growth and Myanmar’s re-integration into the global economy.

Hans Vriens will explore the political and economic changes underway and the current realities on the ground in Myanmar. He will cover Myanmar’s political stability, assess the potential steps and timeline for the lifting of sanctions, and look at recent and upcoming economic reforms. He will also examine the current role of the government in the economy and the condition of the private sector, and finally review of the opportunities and challenges for foreign investors in Myanmar.

Vriens & Partners is the first international consulting firm to establish itself on the ground in Myanmar.

Time: 8:00 – 9:30am (first 15-20 minutes is for networking)
Light Breakfast included
Fee(s): Member Fee: HK$150   [ Login Now | Enjoy special member rates ]
Non Member Fee: HK$250
Venue: AmCham Office
1904 Bank of America Tower
12 Harcourt Road, Central
Inquiries: Ms. Katherine Lau at kalau@amcham.org.hk (please use the following subject line for your email: “Date of event / Speaker name(s) or event title”)
Fax (852) 2810 1289
Media: CLOSED TO MEDIA