BURMA — As one of Asia’s poorest countries, despite upturns in growth and foreign investment over the past few years, Burma (or Myanmar) has a growing need to improve large and small business opportunities in its private sector. Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) account for 90 percent of all enterprises in the country, but largely operate on an informal basis, receive little outside investment and are underemployed.
The majority of capital and prosperity is still focused within a handful of long-established business entities. With the introduction of a three-year program alongside The Asia Foundation, The DaNa Facility is actively addressing these problems within business environments in Burma for more inclusive economic growth and sustainable private sector development.
The DaNa Facility
Funded by the U.K. Department for International Development (DFID), and partnered with Development Alternatives Incorporated (DAI) and KPMG International Cooperative, The DaNa Facility is a five-year program under their ‘Business for Shared Prosperity’ (BSP) program. Focused on reducing poverty and increasing incomes through strengthening business environments for SMEs and the impoverished, they work across all levels with policy makers, business leaders and single entrepreneurs.
They have discovered five key impediments to inclusive growth include infrastructure, regulatory environments, access to finance, exports and the inclusion of women and minorities. To address this, they deliver technical assistance, direct grant funding and open and competitive appeals for cofounding on projects with the potential to better conditions.
Working closely with national governments and adhering to their economic policy goals, The DaNa Facility can successfully coordinate operations at national and subnational levels. They facilitate trade and exports in predominantly non-extractive and job-creating sectors like textiles, bamboo and agribusiness.
Launched this past July, their newest initiative in Burma will improve business competitiveness, as a central part of the Myanmar Business Environment Index (Myanmar BEI) which identifies business constraints, makes recommendations and raises awareness on solutions to improving business environments in Burma. They will be building off of and looking to past projects undertaken by The Asia Foundation, in Vietnam, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and on.
In the words of Myanmar’s Country Representative for The Asia Foundation, Kim Ninh, a better understanding of local governance practices that effect day-to-day business practices is important to improve business environments in Burma since, “For many Myanmar micro, small, and medium enterprises, the first engagement with government is at the township level, whether this involves business registration, tax collection, or inspection of a business.”
Vietnam’s Competitive Initiative
Looking at Vietnam’s Competitiveness Initiative (VNCI), which was funded by the U.S Agency for International Development (USAID) and ran from 2003 to 2013, it was designed to increase competitiveness of SMEs through improved provincial economic governance, as with implementation of the Vietnam Provincial Competitiveness Index. The program additionally catalyzed work in the communications and information technology, dragon fruit, home furnishings and banking industries and promoted access to finance.
And under so-called Project 30, they were able to inventory over 5,700 administrative procedures, 9,000 legal documents, and thousands of more forms into the first National Database.
As a result, cost savings to individuals and businesses due to Project 30 are estimated at around $1.4 billion yearly after full implementation, while increasing transparency and accessibility to such materials for investment, construction and so forth. Lastly they established the Administrative Procedures Control Agency under the People’s Committee of Ho Chi Minh City, comprising 87 control units with over 500 professionals coordinating reform in 24 ministries in over 63 cities and provinces.
Hence there is great potential for such programs in Burma, as improving business competitiveness and environments opens countries up to reform and growth that benefits all its people.
– Zar-Tashiya Khan