Yangon, 15 June—The Thilawa Special Economic Zone Project, located some 20 km from the former capital Yangon, has attracted about US $400 million worth of investment within five months, according to SEZ management committee chairman U Set Aung.
Thirty-six out of 40 companies have reached reservation agreements with the management committee and received investment permission. Operations of the SEZ are set to start in September, a little later than scheduled, according to the chairman.
However, the chairman is adamant that operations of the SEZ will begin this year. The committee has completed water and electricity supply tasks and implemented waste management systems which do not allow any waste to be dumped into the river. Decoration of offices and installing of sensors at the main gates of the SEZ have yet to be completed, the chairman added.
In addition, a computerized system of issuing investment permits not only allows the management committee to assess the standards of companies but also to monitor their business and investment activities.
The chairman pointed out that other benefits of the SEZ include expansion of the export sector and human resources development as factories there will export 100 percent of their high-quality products which require highly skilled labour.
For human resource development of people around the SEZ, vocational training centres will be set up in the zone, according to the chairman. One of the professional vocational training centres was opened on 9 June by Fuji World Company and the management committee is arranging skill training courses for 40 local people who had to move to nearby place due to the SEZ project.
As for local people who are affected by the project, the chairman said the management committee, developer companies, NGOs and civil society organizations have formed a group to manage the needs of the local people affected by the project, including seasonal floods and sewage systems which were built by local people by themselves.
The group is carrying out maintenance tasks for the sewage system and has completed electricity and water supply tasks. Other assistance for affected people includes free vocational training courses which even provide transportation fares, financial management courses for micro-finance and employment. There is also a complaint centre set up at the SEZ, according to the chairman.
Moreover, the electronic tax collection system to be applied by the SEZ allows the government to levy all kinds of taxes that would otherwise be lost outside the SEZ, including trading taxes, value taxes and council taxes. Companies prefer the system as it collects taxes more transparently and recognizes taxpayers, the chairman said.
Nobody will need to carry cash in the SEZ including employees, as they can use mobile banking, online banking and ATM cards systems.
Thilawa SEZ benefits not only the government but also members of the public who have bought shares.
Most shareholders are ordinary people like hawkers and will be able to enjoy benefits for about 75 years.