Suu Kyi Says Laws, Infrastructure Stalling Investment in Myanmar

Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi said foreign investment in the newly democratizing nation is being held up by inadequate infrastructure and uncertainty over investment laws.

Speaking to students at the University of Tokyo today, Suu Kyi also said establishing the rule of law was a prerequisite for dialog to end the ethnic violence that has killed dozens of people and displaced thousands in recent weeks.

“Foreign investment is increasing more in theory than in actual fact, because many of the big businesses are waiting to see what our foreign investment laws are going to be like and studying the infrastructure in Burma, which is very poor,” Suu Kyi said, referring to the country by its former name.

Myanmar’s shift to democracy after five decades of military rule has attracted interest from companies including Google Inc., while MasterCard Inc. last September became the first payments network to issue a license to a Myanmar bank. Chinese and Japanese companies are also investing in the country, which borders India, China and Thailand.

While the lack of basic facilities such as roads, electricity and water supply are causing some companies to delay investments, large food producers may be interested in investing in agriculture, Suu Kyi said.

The former political prisoner is on a week-long visit to Japan, her first in 27 years, during which she has met Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida and will visit Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. Abe this week told a parliamentary committee attended by Suu Kyi that he is encouraging businesses to invest in Myanmar.

Debt Forgiveness

Japan, Myanmar’s largest creditor, agreed last year to settle $6.6 billion in arrears and provide loans to help it repay debt to the Asian Development Bank and World Bank.

In response to a question from a student, Suu Kyi emphasized the importance of the rule of law in enabling a resolution to the deadly anti-Muslim violence that has split the ethnically diverse country in recent weeks.

“We have had no rule of law in Burma for the last 50 years,” she said. “What we have had is the rule of an authoritarian government. There can be no negotiation or exchange of ideas if people do not feel secure.”

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