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Aung San Suu Kyi Warns on Investing in Myanmar

by Joshua Kurlantzick
June 1, 2012

Myanmar's pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi speaks during the World Economic Forum on East Asia in Bangkok. Myanmar's pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi speaks during the World Economic Forum on East Asia in Bangkok. (Chaiwat Subprasom/Courtesy Reuters)

In a speech today at the World Economic Forum, Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi warned potential investors to the country, which is opening up to business, that the country faced a severe unemployment crises, utterly useless legal protections for investors, severe political problems, and weak infrastructure. She did not exactly tell investors not to come —she hopes that well-informed investment can help boost the economy and slow down the youth unemployment crisis. But she did not exactly sound like one of the many exuberant cheerleaders for Myanmar’s potential, such as the Asian Development Bank and many investment fund managers.

In a piece in the Financial Times several months ago, I echoed several of Suu Kyi’s main concerns, and I continue to believe that Myanmar is being wildly overhyped as a business destination, at least for now. You can read the piece in its entirety here.

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  • Posted by Derek Tonkin

    Those engaged in infrastructure projects, with funding from bilateral (Japan, South Korea) and multilateral sources, as well as oil and gas multinationals, hotel chains, telecommunications and Asian light manufacturers, will listen politely to what Suu Kyi has to say, but are unlikely to be swayed. They have seen it all before in other developing countries and understand far better than she does what is involved. If the faint-hearted are dissuaded, so much the better for those willing to take the risks. I have not noticed that the Chinese have been much concerned, nor for that matter have the Indians, Russians, Thais, Malaysians, Singaporeans, Japanese and South Koreans. They understand how to do business the Asian way. Sure, there are cowboys and conmen at loose in Myanmar these days, but they will only deceive themselves, the gullible and the greedy. Responsible directors do not waste shareholder funding and company resources needlessly.

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