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Myanmar - open for business?

Should Myanmar be open to foreign investment?

The recent elections in Myanmar appear to have provided a watershed in the country's challenging political landscape.

The last 12 months have seen its government embark on a wide-ranging programme of economic and political reforms, prompting the first visit by a US Secretary of State in more than 50 years. Has the time come for Myanmar to open its doors to new foreign investment? Will foreign investors now set their sights on the considerable resource opportunities on offer in this new political environment?

The following briefing discusses the opportunities, as well as the potential risks and pitfalls, facing foreign investors.

Are the doors now open?

For over five decades, Myanmar suffered from the effects of international isolation and economic stagnation. Having been one of Asia's wealthiest nations at the time of its independence in 1948, by 2011 Myanmar had slumped to one of Asia's poorest.

Following the recent general election (the first in 20 years), the country appears to have signalled a change in attitude. In spite of allegations of electoral fraud and a boycott by Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy, the result was hailed by the government as a significant step in the transition to civilian democracy.

The government's promise of economic and political reforms appears to be holding true. 2011 has witnessed significant political and economic developments: the release of political prisoners; the announcement by Aung San Suu Kyi that she will stand for election to parliament; new laws allowing peaceful protests and the formation of unions; anti-corruption initiatives; policies aimed at lifting restrictions on the flow of foreign investment; and exchange rate reforms.

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