“Austria, smack in the middle of Europe, being the sort of corridor to the East, West, South and North. I think we can do the same thing, that we can be the next Austria, linking India and China,” he said.
According to Aung Tun Thet, who is also a senior advisor to the UN Resident Coordinator’s Office, Myanmar’s strategic location between the region’s two economic powerhouses of India and China, presents a huge opportunity for the transport and logistics sector.
Myanmar is Asia’s latest frontier market, which embarked on political and economic reforms only in 2011. A resource-rich country with a youthful population, this Southeast Asian nation has recently attracted a lot of investor interest.
Kanthan Shankar, country manager for the World Bank in Myanmar said, “They’ve been cut away for such a long time, so there’s a clear urgency on the part of the government, wanting to catch up. The success would depend on how these reforms are implemented on the ground.”
There are many challenges facing the country that emerged from military rule in early 2011. From maintaining political and economic stability to building infrastructure, this nascent market while attractive to investors poses challenges.
Nobel laureate and Myanmar’s opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi also highlighted the problem during her April visit to Japan. In a speech to students at Tokyo University, Suu Kyi said the country’s potential was hurt by its “inadequate infrastructure.”
Shankar added,”Private investment is going to be crucial. This is a country which has one of the lowest connectivity rates in terms of mobile technology as well as lowest connectivity in terms of access to finance.”
One investor who is willing to take on the challenge is Alisher Ali, founder and chairman of Ulaanbaatar-based Silk Road Finance. Ali is no stranger to investing in frontier markets, having invested in Mongolia and Mozambique.
He decided to move his family of six to Yangon after his first visit in May 2012.
“I knew that this was going to be a long journey, that the road will be bumpy but one thing was clear at that time last year, and it’s obviously clear now, that this is a road to eventual prosperity,” he said.
Ali launched Mandalay Capital in August, Myanmar’s first investment banking advisory firm, hoping to bring “much needed capital” to the country. Mandalay Capital has started raising capital for a debut Myanmar-focused venture capital and private equity fund. Ali is also steering clear of the resources and infrastructure sectors, instead looking to invest in knowledge-based industries like education, information technology and media.
“The way to go, in terms of making early investments in Myanmar, is to look for investments in areas that are less subject to government regulation and less subject to cronyism,” he said.
Source : CNBC’s Liza Tan | 30 May 2013