Foreign Direct Investment Relations between Myanmar and ASEAN

Discussion Papers


by Thandar Khine

April 2008


Myanmar highly appreciates foreign direct investment (FDI) as a key solution reducing the development gap with leading ASEAN countries. Accordingly, it is welcomed by the government. Myanmar’s Foreign Investment Law was enacted in 1988 soon after the adoption of a market-oriented economic system to boost the flow of FDI into the country. Foreign investors positively responded to these measures in the early years and FDI inflow into Myanmar gradually increased during the period from 1989 to 1996. However, after 1997, FDI inflow was dramatically reduced and markedly declined until 2004. In 2005, FDI inflow increased at an unprecedented rate and reached the highest level in the country’s history. However, this growth was not sustainable in the subsequent years, as it declined again and turned stagnant at the previous level.

In terms of source regions, ASEAN is a major investor in Myanmar, which investment is significantly exceeds the combined investment of other regions of the world. Among top ten countries, Thailand’s investment alone is significantly more than combined total investments of the other nine countries. Next to Thailand in terms of investments in Myanmar are Singapore and Malaysia among ASEAN, at second and third places, respectively. The combined total FDI inflows into the power and oil and gas sector represent about 65 percent of the total investment.

There are many opportunities for foreign investment in other sectors, which are not, yet exploited. ASEAN countries will certainly be source countries of Myanmar FDI in the future, and Myanmar should expand to other Asian countries like Japan, India, China, Korea, and Hong Kong where its FDI portfolio is concerned. To effectively attract FDI into the country, Myanmar needs to minimize the effect of policy while opening and encouraging other potential sectors of FDI to foreign investors in ASEAN and Asian countries.

Keywords: foreign direct investment (FDI), Myanmar, ASEAN, Myanmar Investment Commission (MIC)
JEL classification: F21, L10, O11

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