Myanmar needs more labour skills

Despite an influx of foreign investment and large resource base, Myanmar's exponential growth in gross domestic product (GDP) could be held back by inadequate basic infrastructure and a lack of skilled workers, says a Yangon-based business and market entry adviser.

  • Published: 10/05/2014 at 07:15 AM
  • Newspaper section: breakingnews

Jean-Pierre Verbiest, an economic and finance expert at West Indochina, said Myanmar is still in the early stages of developing its independent power producer policy framework and creating energy regulators.

According to the International Monetary Fund, World Bank and Asian Development Bank, the problem could improve in two to three years, he told the CLSA Asean Forum 2014.

"The constraints to Myanmar growth are a lack of necessary infrastructure, especially in the energy sector, and skilled workers," he said.

"The difficulty in finding skilled and manager-level workers in Myanmar is because there are not that many of them. However, Myanmar still has one of the lowest wage costs, which is ideal for labour-intensive industries."

According to the Japan External Trade Organisation, Japanese investors have expressed interest in establishing satellite factories for labour-intensive industries to supply raw materials to Thailand.

That is likely to happen once the Eastern and Southern Economic corridors that link the main production hubs in Thailand with Myanmar are completed, said Setsuo Iuchi, Jetro's president and chief representative for Asean and South Asia.

According to West Indochina, Myanmar's economy grew by about 5% in the 10 years prior to reform. In 2011, when reform began, gross domestic product grew by 7-8%; last year it rose by 7.5%.

"Its 2014, GDP is set to grow by about 9% and will continue to be about 8-9% for the next 20-30 years due to the inflow of foreign investment, especially in the oil and gas sector, as new projects continue to come online," said Mr Verbiest.

Similarly, the telecommunications sector will attract a lot of investment in the next 18 months as the country aims to have 80% mobile phone coverage.

"Myanmar is starting its development when technology is cheap and widely available, so it could develop slightly faster than Vietnam did in the '90s," said Luc de Waegh, founder and managing partner of West Indochina.

Other than oil and gas and telecoms, its growth areas are consumer goods, packaging, market research and law.

In the tourism sector, the number of visitors is likely to reach 10 million per year in the next 10 years, up from 2 million now.

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Writer: Nop Tephaval
Position: Business Reporter

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