Myanmar president signs long-awaited foreign investment law

Reuters News
Posted: Nov 02, 2012 11:00 AM
Myanmar president signs long-awaited foreign investment law

YANGON (Reuters) - Myanmar's president signed a foreign investment law, state television reported on Friday, clearing the way for overseas companies to commit funds to the country after long delays.

The bill had passed between the country's legislative and executive branches since March in a tussle involving a government eager to attract foreign investment, tycoons determined to protect their monopolies, and small businesses keen not to be shut out.

The bill was finally approved by parliament earlier this week. Details of the legislation have not been made public but are likely to be published by state media in coming days.

Some details were passed to Reuters by a member of a parliamentary committee that went through the bill.

A clause requiring foreign investors to provide at least 35 percent of start-up capital in any joint venture with local partners had been dropped, he said on Thursday before parliament approved the bill.

"Now it has been changed to 'the participation ratio of the joint venture is only to be decided by local and foreign partners'. It means anything they both agree," he said, requesting anonymity.

Another provision in an early draft had stipulated foreigners could own a maximum 50 percent of a joint venture in certain sectors deemed sensitive.

"Now it has been decided not to mention this ratio in the Foreign Investment Law since it can sting foreign investors. Instead, the ratio will be mentioned only in the relevant rules and regulations, and only if necessary," the committee member said.

He said the changes had been initiated by the president's office.

President Thein Sein took office in March 2011 at the head of a quasi-civilian government that brought almost 50 years of military rule to an end.

He has undertaken economic and political reforms that have persuaded Western countries to suspend sanctions and prompted an upsurge of interest in the country from multinational firms, which see potential in Myanmar's abundant resources and primitive economy.

(Reporting by Aung Hla Tun; Writing by Alan Raybould; Editing by John Stonestreet)