ASEAN Market Watch: Indian SEZs in Myanmar, US Increasing Engagement in Cambodia, and Innovation in the Philippines

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Myanmar: India to Setup an SEZ in Sittwe

VK Singh, India’s Minister of State for External Affairs, announced India’s plans to build a Special Economic Zone (SEZ) in the Burmese city of Sittwe. The announcement was made at the India-ASEAN Foreign Ministers meet in Laos. The SEZ proposed by India will reportedly by located about 50 miles (80kms) south of Sittwe and will provide competition to the Chinese SEZ.

The Indian government aims to expand India’s footprint in the Southeast Asian region. India has already build a port in Sittwe. The plan to build the SEZ comes as a backdrop to China’s plan to build several roads and ports, as a part of their One Belt One Road Initiative. Myanmar is developing rapidly as its economy opens up with several countries investing in the country to gain influence in the region. The investments bode well for investors that plan to enter or are currently in Myanmar, as they will likely benefit from increased infrastructure. 

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Cambodia: US Delegation Visits to Discuss Opportunities to Invest

A business delegation comprising of several major US companies visited Cambodia recently to meet the Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen and to discuss the opportunities of investing in Cambodia. The US delegation was led by William G. Lafferrandre, Vice President of Asia Pacific with ConocoPhillip and several members from the US-ASEAN Business Council. While addressing a gathering during the visit, Lafferrandre said US investors were keen on investing in all sectors of the Cambodian economy. One of the key issues identified was the absence of local suppliers in Cambodia.

The group suggested that the government should build look into the issue and try to incentivize local suppliers. However, most members of the delegation agreed that Cambodia has plenty of opportunities for investment. The Asian Development Bank (ADB) projects that Cambodia will grow at 7 percent through 2016. The visit from the US delegation highlights the business opportunities available in Cambodia. In addition, the U.S. Business Mission 2016 aims to strengthen business ties between Cambodia and the US, which bodes well particularly for US companies that are interested in the region.

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Philippines Moves up in Global Innovation Index

The Philippines moved up nine places in the latest Global Innovation Index (GII) 2016 rankings. The Global Innovation Index is an annual index that ranks countries and economies in terms of their enabling environments to innovation and their innovation outputs. This makes Philippines the 74th most innovative economy out of the 128 countries that were surveyed.

Seven parameters were used to arrive at the ranking. Among the parameters, the biggest improvement was seen in Human Capital and research, where Philippines rose by 28 places. This indicator measures the quality of tertiary education and R&D in the country. Philippines also rose up in other indicators, including institution, infrastructure, market sophistication, business sophistication, knowledge and technology outputs and creative outputs.

Despite the increase in these indicators, investment showed a considerable decline. Philippines dropped 25 places in investment, which also indicates poor performance in protecting minority investors among other issues. Investors should note that while Philippines offer a great environment to innovation, the wider policy environment and regulations might hamper the yields of innovation in the country.


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