Remarks at Roundtable on Economic Reform and Responsible Investments
Yangon, 26. januar 2012
The Minister based his speech on some of the following points (check against delivery)
Dear Minister of Industry U Soe Thein, Ladies and gentlemen,
- It is a pleasure for me to be here at what I believe is a historic moment and opportunity for Myanmar. Yesterday I had talks with President Thein Sein, several key ministers and Daw Aung San Suu Kyi.
- My impression from the talks is that, although they have different views on a number of issues, they all share the belief that reform must proceed in all areas, and that great opportunities lie ahead if the right choices are made.
- This roundtable has been convened to highlight the opportunities facing Myanmar, and to identify avenues of development that would benefit the population and build a foundation for balanced and inclusive growth.
- I am honoured that Minister U Soe Thein has agreed to co-host this event. We also have two economic experts with us here today: Ian Porter and Robert Grawe, who at our request have spent time in Myanmar assessing the economy and identifying possible roles for the international community and the international financial institutions.
- Sigve Brekke of the Norwegian telecom company Telenor will share his experience of other Southeast Asian markets in the field of responsible investment and partnerships in a sector of importance for countries undergoing transition and growth. Finally, Karin Beate Theodorsen of the Norwegian Confederation of Trade Unions and Knut R. Sørlie of the Norwegian Confederation of Enterprise will discuss the importance of well-functioning relations between employers and employees.
- Now, in my brief introduction, I would like to emphasise three aspects that I believe provide opportunities for Myanmar:
- First, you have the possibility of using the experience and history of others – their successes and failures – to your advantage.
- What I can offer is our story: After Norway gained independence in 1905, it was one of the poorest countries in Europe. During the years leading up to World War II, our economy was largely dependent on fisheries, maritime transport and an emerging industrial sector. These sectors generated knowledge and competence that we were later able to turn to our advantage.
- The discovery of vast oil and gas resources in the 1970s created new opportunities. In 2010, oil and gas accounted for 45% of the value of Norwegian exports (approximately USD 80 billion). Figures from November 2011 indicate a daily production of 2 057 000 barrels of oil.
- Most important, all Government petroleum revenue is transferred to the Government Pension Fund, which is one of the largest sovereign wealth funds in the world.
- However, the key to this development is that we found a balance between government control and the international expertise and investment required to develop the oil and gas industry. We established national legislation and predictable and transparent policies, and knowledge was transferred to our own educational institutions and industries.
- At the same time, we already had a welfare system (“the Nordic model”) where income and benefits were evenly distributed, combined with rules and agreements establishing well-functioning labour relations and systems for peaceful dispute settlement.
- As you may know, other countries that have natural resources that are in demand have not been in such a fortunate position. However, I believe the most important thing for a resource-based economy is to establish national policies and clear rules and regulations.
- Second, Myanmar should decide its own pace of development and define its own economic agenda.
- Investors and economic partners will then have to comply with policies based on Myanmar’s own interests and needs. Myanmar has the advantage of having vast natural resources.
- However, unlike many post-war European countries, your greatest advantage is that you are increasingly becoming a part of a dynamic regional economy. Both capital and competence are already present in the region, and structures for economic and political integration are being established. The challenge for Myanmar now is to define the manner in which it would like to connect to regional development.
- Rapid economic growth can be achieved in many ways. However, sustainable economic development is best achieved by standards for the conduct of companies and investors.
- And strong regulatory mechanisms will ensure that the Government keeps the upper hand and that development is in line with national strategies.
- My third and last point is that Myanmar can benefit from already existing resources.
- I firmly believe that, as the reform policy continues, the international community will respond by lifting current restrictions on assistance and financing. We, on our part, will continue to encourage such a development.
- At the same time, opportunities already exist for establishing partnerships with international centres of expertise, for instance on sustainable investment and resource development.
- Myanmar could, for example, consider joining the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative, EITI (where Indonesia is already a member).
- Another opportunity would be to make full use of the expertise on labour relations within the International Labour Organisation (ILO).
- Moreover, as a number of ceasefire agreements have now been concluded, expertise is also available on how to convert economies from conflict management to development, and we would be prepared to give our contributions such a process.
- Finally, we will from our side pursue the opportunities which exist for utilising international economic expertise within macro-economic planning.
Ladies and gentlemen,
- We look forward to continue working with the Government of Myanmar and with civil society actors with a view to establishing lasting partnerships and promoting economic development.
- This roundtable is the beginning of a long process and will provide a basis for forging ties in connection with many of the questions we will be discussing here today. Thank you for your attention.