Myanmar hopes to overtake Singapore's economy in 20 years' time and the country is hoping that Singapore will lend a helping hand, said Myanmar State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi on Wednesday (Nov 30).
Speaking at the IE Singapore's Global Conversations, Ms Suu Kyi, who is in Singapore for a three-day official visit, said this in reference to a quote by the late Mr Lee Kuan Yew.
"At the beginning of Singapore's independence, the then Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew said in 20 years time, Singapore would have caught up with Burma," she said. "Now I think we have to change that and say: In 20 years' time, Myanmar will have overtaken Singapore and you will help us to do that because success in one part of the region means success throughout the region," Ms Suu Kyi said.
Before the group of senior business leaders who have gathered for the dialogue session, Ms Suu Kyi noted that Myanmar's human capital, on top of its natural resources, will be attractive for Singapore companies.
She said that the country has made vocational training the core focus of its education system, which she thinks is just as important as "any academic scholars programme".
She also raised the example of the new Myanmar Investment Law, which include changes in incentives in the areas of income tax exemptions and land use. The new law, which is a combination of the previous Myanmar Citizen’s Investment Law and the Foreign Investment Law, is expected to come into force in April 2017.
"Our new law is meant to be business friendly and we hope it can make it easier for you to go about your business," she said
Ms Suu Kyi also emphasised that she hoped Singapore businesses create job opportunities for Myanmar nationals, citing job creation as "the most important part of our economic policy".
"Without jobs, there can be no shiny future for our young people," she said. "Unemployed youth is a potential threat to stability of our society ... So we hope the investments that Singapore has in mind can create jobs and teach our prowl to improve their skills."
"Singapore is a business friendly nation. We want to learn from you. We want our people to be innovative and competitive in a healthy way," she added.
MUCH POTENTIAL FOR STRONGER ECONOMIC TIES: LIM HNG KIANG
At the dialogue session, Minister for Trade and Industry (Trade) Lim Hng Kiang said Myanmar and Singapore enjoy a long-standing and strong bilateral economic relationship, but that there was much potential for these economic ties to grow.
"Amidst the uncertainties of today’s global environment, Myanmar is a bright and promising spot in a vibrant Southeast Asia," the trade minister said.
Mr Lim noted that the Myanmar government has "moved decisively" to improve the country's business environment since taking office in March. Steps taken include the unveiling of the government's 12-point economic plan and the passing of a revised Myanmar Investment Law, he noted.
The Myanmar government is also in the process of revising the Myanmar Companies Act and developing the Yangon Stock Exchange. "Businesses are watching the passage and implementation of these laws," Mr Lim said.
In 2015, Myanmar was Singapore's 28th largest trading partner, with total trade at S$3.57 billion, while Singapore was Myanmar’s third-largest trading partner. As of end-October 2016, the city-state was the second-biggest investor in Myanmar with a cumulative investment of US$15.6 billion (about S$22.2 billion), coming behind China (US$18.5 billion).