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Ministry set to rewrite colonial-era business law

The Ministry of National Planning and Economic Development (MNPED) is planning to redraft the 99-year-old Burma Companies Act in an attempt to make the legislation more compatible with the country’s evolving business climate.

According to the Directorate of Investment and Company Administration (DICA)’s director general Aung Naing Oo, the ministry is working alongside the Asian Development Bank (ADB) to rewrite the law that was adopted in 1914 when Burma was still under British colonial rule.

“The act is 99 years old so it wouldn’t be convenient for amending. We’ve had several meetings with the ADB to discuss whether it would be better to completely rewrite or just make amendments to it and concluded that rewriting would be more effective,” said Aung Naing Oo.

“We are looking to draft a more efficient law that meets international standards and provides  [companies] with regulations that are simple and easy to follow.”

Maung Maung Lay, vice-chairperson of the Union of Myanmar Federation of Chambers of Commerce and Industry, echoed the sentiment and said the new law’s regulations should allow Burma’s economy to integrate with regional and international markets.

“[Burma] is a signatory of the World Trade Organisation agreements and also looking to become a member of ASEAN trade, so we have to change our registration and investment regulations to become consistent with everyone else,” said Maung Maung Lay.

According to economic analysts Aung Ko Ko, the new legislation should also shy away from loading private companies down with unnecessary expenses.

“There needs to be more privately owned companies in order to develop the private economic sector, and to make this happen they should be allowed to register and operate more conveniently.”

According to statistics provided by DICA, there were 32,563 registered Burmese-owned companies and 2,060 foreign enterprises as of 1 July 2013.

Burma’s economy languished during almost five decades of military rule that saw the nationalisation of large numbers of private enterprises in tandem with targeted sanctions from western governments.

Amid ongoing reforms, the government appointed a new investment commission last year that has been tasked with paving the way for foreign businesses looking to finance enterprises in one of Asia’s final economic frontiers.

However, fierce opposition to ongoing land grabs, a lack of infrastructure and a largely untested government has bridled the massive influx of foreign capital into the former pariah nation.


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