By Aye Yamon
The Thilawa Special Economic Zone Management Committee said it plans to invite foreign developers to set up a smart city in the Thilawa SEZ.
Japan has proposed drafting a master plan for the project, and the plan is expected to be finished within this year. The proposal came up during a workshop on Implementation of SEZs, organized jointly by the Myanmar Trade Promotion Department and the International Growth Center. The workshop was held on 17 January at Yangon’s Park Royal Hotel.
Dr. Shwe Hein, the secretary of the Thilawa SEZ Management Committee, said the master plan will include implementation of a smart city project in the zone’s commercial areas, where the committee will build stores, schools and other necessary facilities. “The reason for implementing the project is to improve the zone. It is expected to be a good place for people live as it is located near the port,” he said.
“Currently, Zone-B is being implemented in the Thilawa SEZ in three phases. Since the establishment of Zone-A in 2016, the SEZ has received a lot of investment. Thus, Japan proposed drafting a master plan for 2,400 hectares in December, 2018,” he said. In addition, the committee will develop logistics centers and commercial centers in Zone-C and Zone-D in the future. The Thilawa SEZ is divided into two zones—free zone and promotion zone. The free zone mainly focuses on export-oriented manufacturing.
Dr. Shwe Hein said there are plans to develop the SEZ, including implementation of a logistics area and improvement of ports with Japan’s ODA loans. The zone implementation is bring undertaken by the Myanmar government in collaboration with the Japanese government and the private sector through a private-public partnership (PPP). To implement the smart city, foreign developers will be invited because it will involve large investments, he said.
For the time being, improvement of ports is being carried out with the help of Japan’s ODA loans. “Port Nos. 25 and 26 will be upgraded with the use of Japanese technology starting this March. A four-lane road is also being built along the circular road through the Thilawa SEZ to allow for export of commodities to Southeast Asian nations, such as Thailand, Viet Nam, Laos, and Cambodia,” he added.
The Thilawa SEZ has so far attracted a total of 103 investors from 18 countries, including over 40 export-oriented companies. Products from the remaining manufacturing companies usually cater to the domestic market.
U Oo Han, the Deputy Director-General of the Myanmar Trade Promotion Organization, said that SEZs help the country attract foreign direct investments. “The SEZs will play an important role in developing the country’s socio-economic status and network between local businesses and the world. They will enable technology transfer for the manufacturing sector and local businesses, and also help raise investments. Collaborative efforts will be made to develop more successful special economic zones in Myanmar,” he said.
The Thilawa SEZ is equipped with a One-Stop Service Center (OSSC) that offers a wide range of services to investors. The OSSC comprises members of 11 government departments, including the Customs Department, the Directorate of Investment and Company Administration, the Internal Revenue Department, the Labour Department, and the Department of Immigration and National Registration.
“It is a little early to implement the smart city project. We need to wait for some time. Concerted efforts are being made to implement a city project near Yangon simultaneously with the development of the Thilawa SEZ,” said Dr. Nyan Thit Hlaing, the director of Myanmar Thilawa SEZ Holdings Public Co. Ltd.
The government is currently developing the Thilawa Garden City in partnership with Thilawa SEZ Holdings Public Co. and Thilawa Property Development. The project covers staff housing, shop houses, banks, Japan’s Super Hotel, a supermarket, and a shopping mall. The inflow of local and foreign investments into the Thilawa SEZ has reached US$1.5 billion so far. The zone has helped create over 15,000 jobs. (Translated by Khaing Thanda Lwin)