Despite Myanmar just having its landmark elections which resulted in a landslide victory by the National League for Democracy, the country still suffers from widespread corruption in government. Corruption in Myanmar is slowly getting better but there’s still far more to do.
The exact opposite of Singapore, Myanmar remains one of Southeast Asia’s most notorious countries for corruption and bureaucracy. However, this does not mean the end for all business opportunities. On both the domestic and international fronts, most new investment projects are still done in a “clean” way.
But there is still a lot of red tape surrounding Myanmar. One of the industries most affected by corruption and bribery is property development. Most of the high-end properties that have popped up across Yangon this year had to wait very little time before starting construction. However, it has always been a long road for investors looking to develop properties without making any payments to speed things up.
Avoid Corruption in Myanmar?
Some of Myanmar’s property developers are nonetheless taking a more ethical approach. One example is Serge Pun, one of the richest and cleanest men in Myanmar. Head of Yoma Strategic Holdings, one of Myanmar’s largest conglomerates, Pun has taken 30 years of his life to build not only a reputation for being one of the cleanest businessmen in the region, but also an empire of real estate, cars, aviation, and banks.
Serving as an international go-to person for all business ventures in Myanmar, Pun is a beacon for international investors looking to stay clear of not only complex bureaucracy, but also the international sanctions imposed on the country. Yoma Strategic Holdings was the company responsible for bringing KFC to Myanmar through a strategic partnership with Yum Brands.
Even though it has been less than a year since the first KFC opened in downtown Yangon, Pun revealed that his team is already scouting the best site for its 250th store.
Honesty Doesn’t Always Prevail in Frontier Markets
With all of that said, it’s not always smooth sailing even for one of the richest men in Myanmar. Pun’s signature real estate project has been plagued with delays and restrictions due to the bureaucratic system in place. A massive five hundred million dollar development in central Yangon, the aptly named “Landmark” has not seen much progress since it was announced 4 years ago.
The Landmark will consist of 2 office towers, a 5-star hotel, and an executive tower, all while situated around the antique Railway Headquarters. The development will indeed break a milestone in the history of Myanmar’s real estate sector when finished.
Not only is The Landmark the vision of one of the richest men in Myanmar, but it also has several prominent international financiers behind it. The project is backed by the International Finance Corporation, the Asian Development Bank, and Mitsubishi Corporation. Cash isn’t the issue – it’s bureaucracy.
A government official knowledgeable on the subject commented that the slow progress was due to careful refurbishment of the antique building “without affecting heritage values.”
Despite giving an impression of progress, Myanmar still has a long way to go. Even projects backed by major international firms and one of the richest men in Myanmar still must take the time to navigate through red tape. Those looking to diversify into frontier market investments should look at places like Vietnam and Cambodia.
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