A CONFERENCE organised by the Asia Inc Forum in Myanmar will look at investment challenges and opportunities in the country, its convenor said recently.
In an interview, Dato Timothy Ong said that this year's ASEAN 100 Leadership Forum, which will be held at the Sedona Hotel in Yangon, Myanmar, would focus on business opportunities in the country as well as on discussions over where the regional grouping is headed.
"Myanmar is coming out of many decades of isolation, and as you can see, the whole world is focusing interest on Myanmar, so we wanted to bring the ASEAN 100 to see and listen firsthand what the opportunities and challenges are," he said.
"It (Myanmar) is a large country, and by Brunei's standard, a very large country with about 60 million people, but it is about 50 years behind," Dato Ong noted.
Dato Ong said that businessmen are advised not to rush into Myanmar without first studying the business environment.
"A lot of things that we take for granted in Brunei would be very new there ... In many respects, Brunei is ahead of (Myanmar)," he said.
Dato Ong said that the cost of doing business in Myanmar might be low, but added that things are starting to change.
He added that if investments start to go into the country and if they continue on their present path, Myanmar's economic growth would likely accelerate.
He also said that for those who are not engaged in business, "I think that the Myanmar story is a very interesting human story," noting that in the five times he had visited the country over the past 12 months, he had noticed changes with every visit.
Dato Ong said that the ASEAN 100 would be discussing the progress made by the ASEAN towards to becoming an integrated community.
Among the the challenges faced by Asia Inc Forum had in organising the event this year, Dato Ong said, was with infrastructure.
"But there are pluses too, because the people of Myanmar are very warm an helpful, it is a very safe country for women," he said.
Dato Ong said that among the highlights of this year's ASEAN 100 would be an oration by Aung San Suu Kyi, Nobel laureate and chairperson of the National League for Democracy.
"She is a remarkable woman with a remarkable story, plus she is very eloquent," he said.
Suu Kyi's oration will be held on the morning of the second day of the forum, and is titled 'Resilience in Turbulent Times'. "Resilience is that special quality that is not easy to achieve, it is the ability to stay the course, to be strong when everything is against you and I think she is an authority on that," Dato Ong said.
He added that the address from the president of Myanmar, Thein Sein, will also be a highlight, but added that while indications as of press time were that the country's leader would be delivering the speech, it had yet to be confirmed.
Dato Ong said ASEAN 100 aims to "provoke thinking and discussion".
"The whole idea is to talk about things to learn and things not to learn," he said, adding that the forum encourages people to ask questions.
"The ASEAN 100 is not about everybody singing the same song. In fact, in all our panels, we generally try to have people who don't entirely agree with one another," he said.
The ASEAN 100 will be held on December 5 and 6. Other guest speakers from this event include HRH Raja Nazrin Shah crown prince of the State of Perak, Malaysia; Jaime Augusto Zobel de Ayala II, chairman and CEO of Philippine conglomerate Ayala Corporation; and Prof Michael Enright, founding director of The Competitiveness Institute.
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