Jun 16, 2013

Myanmar - Myanmar, ASEAN stand to gain from enhanced profile after WEF

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The current spotlight on Myanmar has helped to draw attention to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) as a grouping.

NAYPYIDAW, Myanmar: The current spotlight on Myanmar has helped to draw attention to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) as a grouping.

Participants at the recently-concluded World Economic Forum (WEF) believe both Myanmar and ASEAN will stand to gain from this enhanced profile.

Myanmar's President Thein Sein had repeatedly made the pitch at the WEF about how his country is open for business.

Many have also heard of where the pockets of investment opportunities are in the country of 60 million people.

Neighbouring ASEAN members are also hoping to share a little limelight with Myanmar.

John Riady, director of Lippo Group, said: "I think the opening up of Myanmar over the last 12-18 months is nothing short of amazing. And we should all seize this opportunity as a moment to come together and try to work out our differences and achieve a breakthrough for the integration of the region."

Now that Myanmar is facing fewer sanctions and easing controls on its governing style, it'll be able to contribute as a more active member within ASEAN.

Myanmar will also enjoy certain privileges as part of such a regional club comprising 10 nations.

The Asia Group's CEO for Asia, Adam Schwarz, said: "We've had a lot of conversation this week about the ASEAN Economic Community, economic integration.

"Typically when we see economic integration in regions across the world - whether it's in Europe or Mercosur in South America - often times, it's actually the smaller economies and the weaker economies that benefit the most, benefit disproportionately from trade agreements and regional agreements.

"I think that's probably likely to happen with Myanmar as well."

At this stage, Myanmar needs ASEAN's backing and assistance in areas like boosting productivity and human capacity.

Serge Pun, executive chairman of Yoma Strategic Holdings, said: "Myanmar is definitely getting all the attention and as you said, sort of a darling of the market.

"That doesn't mean that Myanmar is already there. So hopefully ASEAN will help Myanmar because after all, we have to realize that Myanmar is the newest (ASEAN member) as well as probably the lowest in terms of wealth and productivity output, income. We're a bit the weak partner.

"The strong partners should probably give a little more help to the weak partner so that we can really have a balanced and a common growth, so to speak."

Now that the curtain has come down on the World Economic Forum hosted for the first time in Myanmar, it is hoped that participants will not only walk away from the meetings just thinking about the opportunities in this country.

Instead, they'll see Myanmar in the larger context of being a player in the ASEAN community and that will spur investors to consider the entire regional trading bloc when they next think of where to put their money.

- CNA/ir

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