Singapore (AsiaNews / Agencies) - Singapore has overtaken China to become the first foreign investor in Myanmar, and data shows further growth. However, the record hides the fact that much of the investment comes from US companies which, in order to circumvent Western sanctions against the former Burma, have registered in the Asian city-state and do business with the government in Naypyidaw.
According to Myanmar's Deputy Finance Minister Maung Maung Thein "some of the US companies register in Singapore as a Singapore company and come and invest in our country". "That is why Singapore takes over China" Thein said declining to identify the US companies involved.
Although in 2012 the US President Barack Obama authorized
US companies to invest in Myanmar for the first time since 1997, he has
continued to block business with companies linked to the members of the former military
junta, in power until 2010. In May he extended some sanctions under the National Emergencies Act.
Since 2011 - when the military dictatorship ended with the formation of a semi-civilian government, and the appointment of a President (Thein Sein, a former junta general) - Myanmar has engaged in a series of political and institutional reforms toward greater democracy. However, this process of change - which has also led to the partial cancellation of Western sanctions - has suffered a sharp slowdown and opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi is still barred from running for president in elections slated for 2015.
Treasury lists hundreds of companies that are off limits to US investors. Among
those individuals who have had their names removed from the list are President
Thein Sein and parliament speaker Shwe Mann, former junta members who have been
at the forefront of the new government's reform efforts.
The spokesman of the US Chamber of Commerce in Singapore declined to comment on the news; anonymous sources in Washington, scrambling to downplay the issue, stress that the small city-state has overtaken the Chinese giant because Naypyidaw wants to diversify its commercial competiveness.
This year, foreign direct investment in Myanmar is set to grow by more than a quarter compared to the past, with a total turnover of more than 5 billion US dollars. A similar trend is also forecast for 2015. This is double the 2 billion a year in 1989, when the country opened to foreign investment for the first time. Most of the investment concerns the telecommunications industry and light industry, including food and textiles.