Surbana International Consultants opens branch in Myanmar to tap growing demand

Surbana International Consultants opens branch in Myanmar to tap growing demand
The Straits Times

SINGAPORE - Surbana International Consultants has set up up a branch office in Yangon as part of its expansion plans in Myanmar.


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Here is Senior Minister of State for National Development and Trade and Industry Mr Lee Yi Shyan's speech at the launch event on Sunday:

The opening of Myanmar's economy presents much opportunity for economic growth and investment. Myanmar is blessed with a wealth of natural resources, strategic location between China, India and ASEAN as well as a large potential market. GDP is also expected to grow by an average of 6.9 per cent annually over the next 5 years.[1] Myanmar's economic reforms to date coupled with the lifting of sanctions by the international community has boosted foreign investment in the country.

Myanmar has made impressive strides in undertaking economic reforms. First, through the floating of its national currency, the Kyat (pronounced as chart), in April 2012. Second, the adoption of a new Foreign Investment Law (FIL) in November 2012 which replaced the previous law enacted in 1988. The new law allows overseas firms to fully own ventures and offers tax breaks and longer land leases. Further enhancements to the law have been useful in welcoming foreign investment.[2] Such efforts are steps in the right direction to attract and sustain investor interest.

Longstanding and growing bilateral economic relationship

Singapore and Myanmar are old friends. Bilateral ties have grown from strength to strength since the establishment of diplomatic relations in 1966. Government to government ties are healthy. On the people to people front, there is a longstanding community of Singaporeans in Myanmar, while Singapore has a growing community of Myanmar professionals and students.

Bilateral trade and investment have also enjoyed robust growth. In 2013, Singapore's trade with Myanmar increased 71 per cent year-on-year to reach S$3.0 billion[3]. In 2013, Singapore was Myanmar's third largest trading partner. In terms of investments, as of January 2014, Singapore was Myanmar's fourth largest investor with cumulative approved investments amounting to about USD 3.8 billion[4].

Singapore's efforts to facilitate our companies' interest in Myanmar

Recognising Myanmar's economic potential and our companies' business interest in Myanmar, IE Singapore opened its Overseas Centre in Yangon in October 2012. The opening of this centre was officiated by Singapore President Tony Tan. This Centre signifies the Singapore Government's intent to deepen our economic and trade relationship with Myanmar. Through the IE Singapore Yangon Overseas Centre, we hope to promote Singapore investments into Myanmar.

Singapore agencies and business associations have also actively facilitated business missions to Myanmar. A Singapore-Myanmar Business Forum was held in Myanmar in April 2013. The above initiatives have proven useful. In January this year, Singapore topped the list of foreign investments in Myanmar with more than S$1 billion in approved investments. Singapore is also the largest investor in Myanmar's hotel and tourism industry with 14 Singapore companies investing approximately S$1 billion in the sector. [5]

Singapore's Development Experience

Singapore's development path may be of interest to Myanmar. In the 1970s, when Singapore embarked on industrialisation, we rapidly equipped our workers with relevant skill, created legal and financial institutions, and upgraded our physical infrastructure to meet the needs of the investors. Yangon and other cities in Myanmar could experience this phase of development in the next few years.

We also worked on addressing the challenges that came with development. We built strong institutions and nurtured domestic capabilities. Along the way, our companies developed good experience in industrial development, urban solutions and master planning. Quite naturally, many have successfully exported their expertise overseas. For instance, Singapore and Vietnam developed five Vietnam-Singapore Industrial Parks (VSIPs) in different parts of Vietnam. The VSIPs created quality urban environment and many jobs in Vietnam. Surbana undertook the master planning for the VSIP in Haiphong, Vietnam and can do the same in Myanmar.

Surbana a valued partner in Myanmar's development

Surbana was corporatised in 2003 from the Housing & Development Board (HDB), Singapore's public housing authority. Set up in 1960, HDB solved the housing problems in Singapore as by the late 1980s, over 80 per cent of Singaporeans lived in well planned, well-designed, well-maintained and very importantly, affordable public housing. Surbana has the necessary expertise and experience in creating vibrant townships that Singapore is well known for. Surbana has since gone on to develop a full suite of engineering consultancy services spanning different sectors, serving a diverse range of private and public sector clients both in Singapore and the region.

I am happy to see that Surbana has set up a dedicated office in Yangon. This reflects Surbana's long term commitment to doing business in Myanmar. The launch of a scholarship for university students in the architecture and engineering fields in Myanmar represents Surbana's desire to build capabilities in Myanmar. Surbana is also committed to developing its people not only in Singapore, but also in its overseas locations. Surbana's two major projects in Myanmar: (i) residential development within the Dagon Seikkan Township; and (ii) Yangon Ecological Aquarium are good examples of the confidence that investors in Myanmar have in Surbana. Many more will also see the value that Surbana can bring to Myanmar's economic development.

There are opportunities across many sectors including in manufacturing and industrial development, ports and logistics, urban development, hospitality, oil and gas, and consumer sectors. Surbana Consultants have the expertise and experience in some of these sectors.

The potential for fruitful partnerships exists in many sectors in Myanmar. For the Singapore companies who are present, I encourage you to explore these opportunities. Singapore enjoys a good reputation in many parts of the world. Singapore stands for something in the eyes of the foreigners: honesty, integrity, credibility and social responsibility. I encourage companies seeking to invest in Myanmar to do so in a way which strengthens the Singapore Brand.

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