Myanmar's Rakhine state to construct economic zone

Myanmar's Rakhine state to construct economic zone

Police guard near a house that was burnt down in recent violence in Maungdaw, Rakhine state, on Thursday. An economic zone is planned in the Myanmar township. (Reuters photo)
Police guard near a house that was burnt down in recent violence in Maungdaw, Rakhine state, on Thursday. An economic zone is planned in the Myanmar township. (Reuters photo)

Construction of an economic zone dedicated to promoting trade, manufacturing and services in the outskirts of Maungdaw township in northern Rakhine state is expected to start when the current situation in the area has calmed down, a regional minister said.

Muangdaw economic zone will commence its construction within this fiscal year when the region has stabilised, state minister for finance, revenue, economics and planning Kyaw Aye Thein told the Myanmar Times.

This economic zone is not to be confused with the Special Economic Zones (SEZs) in the country which are governed under the SEZ law. The zone in Maungdaw is expected to focus on trade with Bangladesh as well as manufacturing, finance and services industries, but will not be designated as an SEZ.

Sean Bain, legal consultant from the International Commission of Jurists in Myanmar, said establishing an SEZ at Maungdaw would not be a right move.

“Problems with the legal framework for SEZs and the human rights abuses associated with them are well documented. It is hard to imagine a more inappropriate site for the development of another SEZ given the ongoing conflict, overall insecurity and appalling human rights situation in the area,” he said.

The Rakhine regional minister has clarified that the economic zone will not be designated as an SEZ.

Fostering growth

The project’s aim is to foster economic growth, create jobs and promote regional stability based on long-term economic development, according to the regional minister.

“There are some difficulties regarding the security conditions in Maungdaw. But we plan to initiate the development of the zone in Maungdaw Township, including the provision of security and other rights.

Local residents in the area will also benefit from the jobs created, and the project will also facilitate regional economic development. Importantly, with more opportunities for employment made available, ethnic minorities from other states are also expected to move to the region.

“When the economic zone is completed, it will be much more convenient. It will create jobs and result in more development. It can reduce conflict,” Kyaw Aye Thein added.

According to the statistics from the Ministry of Commerce, Maungdaw border trade volume in 2016-17 fiscal year amounted to US$5.95 million. For the current fiscal year, until June 2017, the volume reached $2.61 million, but with no imports for Myanmar. The absence of import from Bangladesh is due to regional instability in Maungdaw. It is also partly because Bangladesh imports can enter the Myanmar market via Sittwe border trade camp.


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