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The rising star of Myanmar?

Updated On: Jan 13, 2006

Myanmar attracted only US$113.21 million of foreign investment in 2005, an 11.6% dip from 2004.

The total amount of foreign investment since opening up to such investment in 1988 is US$7.76b. From the regional point of view, the foreign investment was dominated by Southeast Asian countries with a total of 3.964 billion, with SingaporeThailand and Malaysia as the biggest investors. Chinese investment totalled only US$203.52 million.

This looks set to change as Myanmar has chosen to supply natural gas to China rather than India. This puts to naught the Indian proposals to build a US$1 billion 290-km trunk line from the west coast of Myanmar to West Bengal, via Bangladesh, for importing gas from the A-1 block and possible reserves in the adjacent A-3 block.

After beating Indian firms in overseas oil field acquisitions on three occasions in the last five months, PetroChina has contracted to purchase 6.5 trillion cubic feet of gas from its Block A-1 reserve over 30 years from A1 Block Block in Bay of Bengal. “Ajay Tyagi, Joint Secretary (Gas), Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas had to cut short his trip and return back after Myanmese authorities said they had tied-up gas sales with China,” an Indian industry official said.

In addition, 15 volunteers from China arrived in Yangon this week to offer six-month services in Myanmar. The volunteer team comprises 11 agro-technicians and 4 sports professionals. The volunteer agro-technicians are to help Myanmar farmers in the development of agro-technology, including raising silkworms, growing quality grapes and improving other plants' species, while the sports professionals will help enhance Myanmar's sports level covering that in swimming, weight lifting, ping pong and badminton.

The lucrative deal and closer cooperation come amid the National Convention and discussions for a lasting constitution for Myanmar. It was reported that junta-backed groups continued to hold mass rallies in support of the process which sees “a wide and serious discussion of eight delegate groups” to ensure democratic opinion. Matters discussed include economic development, social development with provision of education, healthcare and other infrastructure, anti-narcotics campaigns, the judiciary and the army.

It is also said that the people support the state’s attempts in modernizing Myanmar. Dr Daw Aye Aye Khaing, declared that the Government and the Tatmadaw (military) have no time to interfere in others’ affairs as they are having to strive for the development of their own State. “Today’s leaders of the State are actually dutiful and they are striving for the welfare of the country with genuine goodwill. Some aliens who do not want to see the progress of the country are highly critical of the efforts of the State. Today’s Myanmar people have had knowledge of national politics based on patriotic spirit. They are now in a position to work for the development of the Union by themselves. So, all the people are in support of the National Convention that is working for a State constitution.”

The mass meeting ended with attendees chanting patriotic slogans.

Sources:

* Myanmar stiffs India on gas, prefers China, Asia Pulse, 11 January 2006

* India fears Myanamr may seek other markets for gas, Indo-Asian News Service, 11 January 2006

* Foreign investment in Myanmar dropped 12%, AP, 11 January 2006

* Chinese volunteers to offer services in Myanmar, Xinhua news agency, 11 January 2006

* National Convention discusses role of army as rallies sweep Burma, The Irrawaddy, 11 January 2006

* It is necessary to introduce an enduring State Constitution for perpetual standing of Myanmar as a peaceful, modern, developed and discipline-flourishing democratic nation in the world, The New Light of Myanmar, 11 January 2006

* Openness and candour propel region along, Straits Times, 10 January 2006