The Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) is deepening its assistance to Myanmar by launching new programs to alleviate poverty, develop human resources and enhance ties between domestic and Japanese firms, the president of the agency said following the opening of the Japan-Myanmar Centre last week.
JICA’s Akihiko Tanaka also said that creating a proper investment environment in Myanmar is key to attracting Japanese businesses.
“Japanese companies are watchingvery carefully now,” he said. “When Myanmar can offer the right environment, they will come,” he added.Myanmar’s rapid exit from two decades of international isolation has caught the eye of foreign investors but is not in itself sufficient to attract investment.
Mr Tanaka said Japanese investors are seeking the “right infrastructure and institutions”before they invest. The new centre, which opened on August 9, is one component of the new infrastructure Myanmar needs to encourage investment. It has been formed by a partnership between JICA and the Union of Myanmar Federation of Chambers of Commerce and Industry. Mr Tanada said JICA chose the federation as its partner because it is the largest business network in Myanmar.
The centre will focus on human resources development. Japanese experts will provide technical training to Myanmar business people on a range of practical skills.JICA is launching two other projects in Myanmar. It will facilitate the development of engineering departments at two Myanmar universities by linking them with Japanese universities that will help update curriculum. The agency is also funding sign-language training for hearing impaired people.
Mr Tanaka said he had engaged in high-level talks with the government about JICA’s ongoing work in Myanmar. “I have met with the president, many ministers and the parliamentary speaker in Nay Pyi Taw. We talked about areas of cooperation and possibilities of future cooperation.
I reported to the president about many of the new projects JICA is implementing. We discussed the most important areas for poverty reduction, particularly in the agriculture sector, to improve people’s livelihood,” the JICA president said.JICA’s work in Myanmar is focused on three areas: improving livelihoods to reduce poverty, capacity development, and development of infrastructure and institutions.It has been a key player in the development of Myanmar, funding projects to improve infrastructure of transport networks, electricity and water supply.
The Japanese government is also driving the development of Thilawa special economic zone near Yangon and considering participating in Dawei Special Economic Zone in the southern part of the country.Still, Japanese investment remains lower than that of other countries, such as China and Thailand.
JICA officials say this will change as more infrastructure is built and that Japanese investment will flow into manufacturing rather than resource extraction. They say that this will generate long-term jobs and sustain Myanmar’s economic development.