As Myanmar continues to enjoy significant economic growth, the development of key infrastructure is critical to further sustain the country’s progress. With the aim of discussing the opportunities and challenges of developing transportation infrastructure in Myanmar, international law firm, Baker McKenzie, in collaboration with the British Chamber of Commerce, hosted Myanmar’s first Transportation Conference at the Melia Hotel on 26 May 2017. The event covered policy, public private partnership (PPP) frameworks, concessions, financing, and structuring of various types of transportation projects such as rail, roads and ports.

The conference featured speakers from across a range of sectors including His Excellency Deputy Minister U Kyaw Myo of the Ministry of Transport and Communications, and representatives from Baker McKenzie, the British Chamber of Commerce, Asian Development Bank and KPMG.

It is clear that transportation is crucial to Myanmar’s development. Recently, State Counsellor, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, identified transportation and power generation as the most important areas to address in order to improve the quality of life and attract continued foreign investment in Myanmar. This pronouncement indicated that these areas will be a particular focus of the government in the near future. His Excellency Deputy Minister U Kyaw Myo, Ministry of Transport and Communications, echoed this sentiment in his keynote speech at the conference. His Excellency spoke about how transportation infrastructure is essential for Myanmar to create jobs and encourage trade between other countries.

As for ways to move forward in developing transportation infrastructure, Baker McKenzie Managing Partner, Jo Daniels, provided key recommendations. Daniels explains, “It is important for Myanmar to be flexible in the approach to public private partnerships, as different forms of PPP may be better suited to different transportation projects. I would encourage the Myanmar Government to not wait for a PPP law but instead begin promoting PPPs as a method of addressing the infrastructure gap in Myanmar.” Jo Daniels also discussed international best practices in PPP, including the need to conduct a rigorous feasibility study to select the most appropriate PPP model for a project.

As foreign investors look to finance transportation projects in Myanmar, Thomas Chan, who leads KPMG’s tax and regulatory practice in Myanmar, spoke about how common holding structures and some of the transportation projects can be funded with a view of subsequent repatriation of investments.

Various speakers at the conference emphasized the importance of close collaboration between the public and the private sectors in developing complex infrastructure projects in emerging markets. Martin David, Principal, Baker McKenzie.Wong & Leow in Singapore, says, “There needs to be a partnership that lasts over time and adapts to the rapidly changing economic landscape. I believe the Government of Myanmar is approaching the country’s infrastructure needs in the right way by investing time and effort now to develop the right foundation upon which future infrastructure can develop in collaboration with the private sector.”

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