Returnees help drive Myanmar's economic stimulation efforts

Reporter: Tang Bo 丨

Myanmar is increasingly opening its economy. And with more opportunities for business growth, rising numbers of overseas Myanma are returning with skills gained abroad. Our reporter Tang Bo goes to the city of Yangon and talks to a returnee who's taking part in his country’s pursuit of opportunities and growth.

Nay Aung started his company in 2012. It is today the number one travel ticketing site in Myanmar. But he initially had concerns of establishing a business here as the country was in its early stages of opening up. That meant the ecosystem support for doing business was weak.

A graduate of Stanford University, the 34-year old former Google executive felt he had gained enough experience after 15 years in California to steer a business of his own.

Last year, the ticketing site registers visits from one out of six foreigners who travel to Myanmar.

But like any other entrepreneur, he is kept awake at night by the challenges of running a small company.

Nay Aung is amongst many overseas Burmese professionals who have returned to Myanmar, finding both opportunities and challenges in a resource rich land.

Accompanying their return are skills and capital required to spur the economy. But encouragement is also coming from authorities. A government body under the country’s finance ministry, the Myanmar investment commission, or MIC was established to aid these investment efforts.

According to the Asian Development Bank, Myanmar’s economic growth for last year was 7.5 percent. This was up 0.2 percent from 2012. But many think these growth rates are below what it can potentially accomplish.

Currently, less than 1 percent of Myanmar’s residents possess bank saving accounts, and less than 1 in 10 in the country have Internet access.

Gaps in transport networks, power and infrastructure mean that much more investment will be needed to furnish the economy that can support the aspirations of its businesspeople.

These returnees play a crucial role as they inject the knowledge required to modernize the country’s antiquated practices.

As Myanmar continues to open up, the country is keen to see entrepreneurs like Nay Aung bring their business and technical skills to help with economic revival. But it’s still a tough and unstable business environment. For pioneers like Nay Aung, it’s part of the challenge, as they look for success in one of the region’s fastest growing economies.

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