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 is one of Asia’s most notorious countries for corruption and bureaucracy. However, this does not mean the end for all business opportunities. Most new investment projects are still done in a “clean” way on both the domestic and international fronts.

But Myanmar’s still surrounded by a lot of red tape. One of the industries most affected by corruption and bribery is property development.

Most high-end properties popping up across Yangon this year barely had to wait before starting construction. It’s always been a long road for investors looking to develop properties without making any payments to speed things up.


Avoiding Corruption in Myanmar?

Some of Myanmar’s property developers are nonetheless taking an 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. He also has an empire of real estate, cars, aviation, and banks.

Serving as an international go-to person for business in Myanmar, Pun is a beacon for global investors looking to stay clear of complex bureaucracy. Yoma Strategic Holdings was the company responsible for bringing KFC to Myanmar through a strategic partnership with Yum Brands.

It’s been less than a year since the first KFC opened in downtown Yangon, but Pun revealed 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 is plagued with delays and restrictions due to the bureaucratic system in place.

His 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. The project will indeed break a milestone in the history of Myanmar’s real estate sector when finished.

As the vision of one of Myanmar’s richest men, the Landmark has large international backers behind it. It has backing from the International Finance Corporation, the Asian Development Bank, and Mitsubishi Corporation. Cash isn’t the issue – it’s bureaucracy.

A government official commented that 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 navigate through red tape. Those looking to diversify into frontier market investments should look at places like Vietnam and Cambodia.

About Reid Kirchenbauer

Reid Kirchenbauer is the Founder of InvestAsian. He’s an accomplished stock trader and property investor in Thailand, Cambodia, and many other places. He’s been featured in publications such as Forbes, Nomad Capitalist, Property Report, and Seeking Alpha. Download his free investment guide by clicking here.

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