On 6th September 2012, Myanmar passed a new foreign investment law that would replace its 1988 foreign investment law. The Myanmar government’s plans for economic expansion are clearly reflected in this new law, in which the stringent regulations previously in place for foreign investors are relaxed. Implementation of this new law is delayed by Myanmar’s President Thein Sein, however, in order for amendments to be made, which will hopefully clarify certain parts of the law and make it more flexible and attractive to potential foreign investors. President Thein Sein suggested amendments to a clause that limits the foreign stake in joint ventures to 50 percent, as he believes that the joint venture ratio should not be fixed but be dependent on the business sector in question. Furthermore, the required minimum investment by foreign investors currently set at $5 million will also be reconsidered so as not to rule out smaller investment deals. President Thein Sein also wants to clarify the section of the legislation that discusses four of the eleven restricted sectors – namely, production and services, agriculture, livestock, and fishing – and the extent local businesses and foreign investors are to be involved in each of these sectors.
Earlier this year, economic sanctions previously instituted by Western nations against Myanmar were relaxed, thus allowing more foreign investment in the country. As of 27th September 2012, U.S. sanctions, which include a ban on Myanmarian imports since 2003, will also begin to be lifted “in recognition of the continued progress toward reform and in response to requests from both the government and the opposition…” said the U.S. Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton. As Myanmar’s largest export to the U.S. before the ban were garments, this lifting of import restrictions bodes well for the country’s garment industry.
President Thein Sein was warmly received at the United Nations on 27th September 2012 as he addressed the General Assembly. In his speech, Thein Sein discussed how Myanmar is changing and making progress on the path of democracy. In a landmark moment, he congratulated and publicly expressed admiration for the main opposition leader, Noble laureate Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, who met with Secretary Clinton during her visit to Myanmar in 2011, the first visit by a Secretary of State in over 50 years.
As an aside, I was in Myanmar in August, when I browsed through the New Light of Myanmar (a government-owned newspaper published by the Ministry of Information famously quipped "the New Blight of Myanmar" by Daw Aung San Suu Kyi due to its misinformation and censorship of news) I was surprised to see I could stay up to date on current events near my home in North Haven! Entitled “Conn town settles dispute over girl’s pet bunny,” the report tells of a heartwarming story in which a North Haven girl was given permission to keep her Flemish Giant rabbit despite zoning regulations prohibiting the keeping of livestock on properties smaller than two acres.