By Rashmi Kumar
International investors are likely to look beyond the mounting global anger towards Myanmar over the treatment of the Rohingya refugees and focus on “great” fortunes to be found in the country over the next several decades.
“It’s sad to say, but the impact won’t be big,” Thomas Hugger, chief executive officer and fund manager at Asia Frontier Capital, told GlobalMarkets. “Even countries like Indonesia have conflicts, say in Papua, but people still invest there. So I think the impact will be minor, because so much investment is needed [in Myanmar] and the opportunities are great.
“Plus, if you do direct investment, then you need to take a long-term view. What’s happening is very sad, but hopefully it is a short term crisis. If you’re investing in Myanmar (and other frontier markets), it should be for the next 40 to 50 years.”
Hugger said he saw opportunities in infrastructure, mining, natural resources, agriculture, education as well as tourism, with the telecom industry the only one he considered saturated in Myanmar.
Restoring stability in some parts of Myanmar is a top priority for the government as it looks to maintain the country’s reputation, said Aung Naing Oo, director general and secretary in the Myanmar Investment Commission. “That is probably the challenge not only for the government but it is also a challenge for the country as a whole,” he told GlobalMarkets.
Nevertheless, Naing Oo said he was optimistic about Myanmar’s future, thanks to the government’s push to bring about reforms to create a more open business environment. Two regulations are key — the Myanmar Investment Law, which has already taken effect, and the Myanmar Companies Act that is now being debated in parliament.
Both are expected to give a fillip to foreign investment into the country, with the latter to allow international investors to buy stock on the Yangon Stock Exchange for the first time.
Naing Oo added that he saw great investment potential in infrastructure, as weakness in its development in Myanmar created opportunities for investors. Thanks to China’s Belt and Road Initiative, Myanmar’s locational advantages will be lucrative in the future, he said.