Exclusive: Myanmar to streamline foreign company registration

Author: | Published: 10 Apr 2012
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Myanmar is set to streamline the company registration process for foreign investors, a Myanmar government official has revealed.

Myanmar’s Company Registration Office (CRO) director general U Aye Ko told IFLR applications for foreign business permits would now be completed within three weeks. The process previously took up to one year.

The move has been made in a bid to create a so-called one-stop shop application service for potential foreign investors ahead of the release of Myanmar’s new foreign investment law. It is effective immediately.

Would-be investors need now only attain approval from, and negotiate terms and conditions with the regulatory ministry relevant to their industry. That ministry will then approach the Myanmar Investment Commission (MIC), the national agency charged with issuing business permits.

If an investment is approved, the MIC will then issue a foreign company permit within that same week, following conclusion of the agency’s weekly meeting. Such permits will need to be renewed after three years.

A senior official at the Myanmar Investment Commission (MIC) said efforts were also under way to further streamline application processes by making all associated ministry documentation available online. This project would be completed within six months, he said.

“It will ensure potential foreign investors no longer need to make the journey back and forth from Nay Pyi Taw, where the main government entities are based, to get investment approval,” he said.

Market participants say the move has been prompted by their increasingly vocal objections to the awkward company formation processes previously in place in the country.

In an article published last month in the Myanmar Times, local accountant U Min Sein said the government would struggle to benefit from the increased attention it was receiving from the international investment community, if it did not catch up with other countries in terms of company licensing procedures.

“Everybody who has gone through this process knows how complicated and costly it is,” he complained. “They have to complete a lot of forms. A single trip to Nay Pyi Taw will not do it.”

“It is time to consider helping foreign and local investors form companies effortlessly and swiftly,” he said.

While another market participant said last week that the introduction of a one-stop shop service was long overdue.

“There is nothing very radical about the idea of a service whereby the regulator processes all the paperwork for you, and obtains all the necessary permits and licences for foreign companies,” he said.

“Other countries have been offering one-stop shop services with English-speaking staff from each of the respective Ministries that need to be dealt with for some time.”

“The Burmese need to compete against these countries and they need to do it quick,” he said.

The MIC senior official said the government was working to relax its laws based on models previously followed by Vietnamese, Indian and Thai governments but stressed balance was critical.

He added that for the time the best opportunities for would-be foreign investors would be within Myanmar’s six Special Economic Zones. These will operate under a more liberal SEZ law and offer tax exemptions for different sectors. They are undergoing construction in Dawei in Tanintharyi Region, Thilawa Port in Yangon, Mawlamyine in Mon State, Myawaddy and Hpa-an in Kayin State, Kyaukphyu in Rakine State and Pyin Oo Lwin in Mandalay region.

Myanmar presidential economic advisor Set Aung revealed to IFLR last week how these zones will act as a laboratory for further reform of the country’s regulatory landscape.

Click here and here for exclusive IFLR video footage of Aung San Suu Kyi inspecting polling stations in her constituency on the morning of Myanmar's by-elections.