It takes decades to ramp up the infrastructure of a country. The initial years are the most difficult and fraught with risk. The process of planning and putting the approvals framework into place can take years to complete.
In this context, what the Government of Myanmar has achieved in a very short time is as remarkable as it is unique. When it started, several factors that some consider essential for a successful ramp up of a country’s infrastructure were severely underdeveloped. Despite this, the country has taken bold steps in multiple sectors simultaneously. The single biggest factor driving this change is the strong and clear intent of the government to do what is needed to improve infrastructure so that it becomes an enabler of economic growth.
In this regard, we believe the following five steps that the government is in the process of implementing would further help achieve its targets:
- Creating clarity and predictability in its regulatory framework for infrastructure sectors – the promulgation of the Foreign Investment Law (FIL) and drafting of the Telecom Law, SEZ Law and Condominium Law are steps in this direction;
- Building institutional capacity within the government to prioritize and procure the needed infrastructure which provides “value for money” – experience gained by the energy sector and ongoing know-how being developed by the telecom and transport sectors in procurement methods would serve as templates to procurement teams in other infrastructure sectors;
- Actively encouraging the development of partnerships between foreign and local participants to bring together international know-how and local context – the FIL makes joint ventures the preferred mode for several sectors, thereby ensuring that infrastructure providers have local know-how and context. This helps in the development of local enterprises and transfer of technology and managerial capabilities;
- Developing the banking system and financial markets to allow free flow of capital to support infrastructure investment – the Central Bank of Myanmar Law, when passed, should address some of the outstanding issues in the sector;
- Fostering public goodwill towards infrastructure projects by demonstrating their economic benefits and potential for creating jobs – the requirement for all large projects in the future to be environmentally sound and to have a positive socio-economic impact will help achieve sustainable and inclusive development.
Author: Satya Ramamurthy is Head of Government & Infrastructure at KPMG in Asia-Pacific
Image: A labourer works at a construction site in Yangong REUTERS/Soe Zeya Tun