Burma’s Thein Sein: Foreign Investment Bill to be Finalized in ‘Days’

Posted October 21st, 2012 at 1:35 pm (UTC-5)
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Burmese President Thein Sein says long-delayed legislation to boost foreign investment in his country could be finalized within days.

Speaking Sunday in the capital Naypyitaw, Mr. Thein Sein said he “thinks” a final draft of the foreign investment bill will emerge in several days after months of debate and amendments by parliament and the presidency. He made the comment in his first news conference for Burmese media since taking office last year as the head of a quasi-civilian government that ended decades of military dictatorship.

Mr. Thein Sein has been eager to attract foreign investors to Burma to speed up the modernization of its undeveloped economy. But, Burmese businesses have lobbied for restrictions on foreign investment to safeguard their monopolies and prevent foreign takeovers of joint ventures. Some Burmese officials have criticized the most recent draft of the bill as too protectionist.

American corporate giants General Electric and Coca-Cola already have been working with Burmese distributors to reach local consumers. But, other multinational companies have been seeking clarity on Burmese laws before investing in an economy with vast natural resources.

Mr. Thein Sein said he decided to hold the news conference exclusively for local media because he already had granted a series of interviews to foreign news organizations while traveling abroad. He described his recent interview on the BBC's HARDtalk program as tough, but said he survived it and was no longer afraid to speak to other news outlets.

Since his 2011 election, the Burmese president has introduced reforms that represent a break with the secrecy and censorship of the country's former military leadership, in which he served as prime minister.

The 67-year old also suggested that he may run for a second presidential term in 2015, saying he will “consider it, depending on the situation of the country and if the people want me to.”