Visiting a bottling plant in Myanmar last week, the impression I got was certainly not of a country that got its freedom from military rule only two years ago. The staff and management seemed motivated, efficient and committed. During the visit, though, as well as hearing about the opportunities for a country on the cusp of profound change, we also heard about the challenges of doing business there.
Our group of Young Global Leaders was told that business is mainly done in cash, logistics are not easy and immigration laws do not allow companies to bring in the skills they need. Added to this is a major problem of inflation, power costs due to generator usage and other hurdles to growth.
Despite these issues, the company has experienced tremendous growth and has done all the right things to bring in the appropriate expertise, get the right certifications and ensure that the staff are motivated.
Our group included people from countries that had gone through similar problems. Three suggestions were clear. In order to really create a sustainable engine of growth, it was necessary to cut down red tape.
This includes things like making it easier to register a company, tackling corruption and making sure the country does not have an environment where only the rich can thrive.
The second is to create an atmosphere of trust, after years when people felt unable to trust a government worker or neighbour, for example.
The third important thing is to make national directives more transparent and allow for decentralization, so that decision-making doesn’t paralyze growth.
In spite of the rocky development road ahead, there was a great optimism that manufacturing companies can thrive and help to build the Myanmar of the future.
Author: Anu Acharya is a Young Global Leader of the World Economic Forum. She is the Founder and Chief Executive Officer of mapmygenome.
Image: Newly produced bottles are seen on a production line REUTERS/Ivan Milutinovic