Interview: Goh Chok Tong
In your opinion, what should the new government focus on to ensure the long-term growth and stability of Myanmar?
GOH CHOK GOH: First and most importantly, it should focus on the smooth transition to a stable democracy. This means forming a government of national reconciliation and unity. It should be an inclusive government, and not a government of winner-takes-all. Next, the leaders should bring in the best people to govern, both fresh faces as well as experienced hands. Laying the foundation of good governance is absolutely crucial to the long-term growth of Myanmar.
Myanmar has ample natural resources but lacks capital, technological and managerial expertise as well as skills for a modern, manufacturing economy. It has to create a business-friendly environment, especially one that is welcoming to foreign investors. The legal, financial and institutional frameworks must be clear. Regulations and laws must be fairly applied.
Long-term growth of the economy requires investment in human resources, in schools, universities, skills-training institutes and teachers. As the economy develops, workers will expect higher wages. A system that is fair to investors, employers and workers must therefore be implemented.
How will the revival of the Singapore-Myanmar Joint Ministerial Working Committee (JMWC) serve to promote bilateral cooperation?
GOH: It will enhance bilateral cooperation in the trade, investment, finance and legal sectors. The 5th JMWC meeting was successfully convened in July 2015. Both sides explored how Singaporean companies can better align their investment interests with the development objectives of the Myanmar government. The key areas include food and agriculture; development of small and medium-sized enterprises; banking and capital markets supervision; building internationally recognised accreditation infrastructure; strengthening the country’s legal framework; and improving air connectivity. As a new government under the National League for Democracy will be in place, the JMWC will enable Singapore to understand its economic priorities.
How will the creation of the Singapore-Myanmar Vocational Training Institute (SMVTI) deepen Myanmar’s talent pool?
GOH: The SMVTI, located in Yangon, will focus on training in hospitality and tourism, electrical skills, facilities management, and engineering services. This bilateral initiative aims to uplift the level of skills training in Myanmar and instil pride and professionalism in vocational and technical education. We hope that the experience from this pilot project will be replicated and improved upon in other institutes and universities in Myanmar.
What plans are in place to strengthen financial cooperation with Myanmar’s banking sector?
GOH: The Monetary Authority of Singapore has been sharing its experience with the Central Bank of Myanmar and the Myanmar Ministry of Finance. Singapore banks operating in Myanmar, like OCBC and UOB, are also helping to develop expertise and capacity in Myanmar’s emerging financial sector.
How is growing industrialisation creating new interest from potential investors in Singapore?
GOH: Myanmar has abundant labour in its 51m people, who also offer a sizeable market across a diverse landscape. Many of the industries in Singapore, which are facing challenges due to higher land and labour costs, may find Myanmar an attractive destination to relocate their enterprises. Singapore has deep knowledge in logistics and infrastructure development, and there will be demand for such expertise in Myanmar as it grows.
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