News / Economy

In Burma, Foreign Investment Surges, Office Rent Sizzles

A line of vehicles drive through Shwegontai junction, one of the busiest junctions in the city, in Rangoon, July 3, 2013.
A line of vehicles drive through Shwegontai junction, one of the busiest junctions in the city, in Rangoon, July 3, 2013.
TEXT SIZE - +
Reuters
— Burma has approved more foreign direct investment in the past five months than all of last year, but companies setting up operations in the hot frontier market face a growing problem: Southeast Asia's highest office rental rates.
 
Burma has approved FDI projects worth more than $1.8 billion from the start of the fiscal year on April 1 to the end of August, compared with $1.4 billion in the whole previous fiscal year, Aung Naing Oo, a director general at the Ministry of National Planning and Economic Development, told Reuters.
 
But he said he fears potential foreign investors will be turned away by a severe shortage of office rental space.
 
The wave of investment comes as Burma's quasi-civilian government implements political and economic reforms, initiated two years ago by President Thein Sein, a former general who led the country out 49 years of military rule and global isolation.
 
The European Union agreed in April to lift all sanctions on Burma, while the United States suspended sanctions in May last year and allowed U.S. companies to invest through a general license. Some American executives have urged Washington to go further and lift sanctions entirely.
 
Most of the approved FDI came from other Asian nations, said Aung Naing Oo.
 
“Malaysia, which brought about $500 million for manufacturing Nissan cars, is the biggest investor during this fiscal [yea]) in terms of size followed by Hong Kong and South Korea, who injected funds in the garment industry,” he said.
 
Nissan Motor Co. plans to start a complete knock down production of its cars in Burma with a Malaysian partner Tan Chong Motor Holdings Bhd, the Japanese automaker said on Friday, becoming the first major global carmaker to be assembling cars in the Southeast Asian country.
 
The rising tide of foreign investment is fuelling a property boom in the commercial capital Yangon with the increasing demand for rental space feeding the highest office rental rates of any Southeast Asian city, according to real-estate firm Colliers International, which opened a branch in Yangon in July.
 
Colliers put the average rental rate in Yangon at nearly $80 per square meter, compared to about $25 in Bangkok and $30 in Hanoi. At about $70 per square meter, even the affluent city-state of Singapore doesn't match Yangon, it said.
 
Scipio Services, a Yangon-based firm that helps foreign companies establish themselves in Burma, puts prime office rental rates even higher. According to their survey, commercial spaces in the few business towers available jumped from $50 per square meter in mid-2011 to as much as $90 by May this year.
 
Skeletal Staff
 
Some companies choose to rent houses and villas in lieu of office space, said Brett Miller, Scipio Services' managing director. But residential rates have also shot up, with villas ranging in price from $4,000 per month to $25,000, he said.
 
As a result, some companies “are coming in with a small footprint,” stationing only skeleton staff in the country, he said.
 
Other companies base executives in neighboring Thailand and fly them to Yangon where they stay at hotels, said Tony Picon, Colliers' managing director in Burma. “I call them the 'half-pats', spending around half their time in Yangon,” he said.
 
Aung Naing Oo said the government is taking measures to increase the supply of rental space.
 
“To solve the problem of the shortage of hotel and office apartments, we are now encouraging investors in these sectors by approving their proposals very speedily,” he said.
 
Drastic rises in property prices are being driven partly by land speculators. Miller at Scipio Services said the government could implement a “holding tax” that would encourage landowners to either build on a property or sell it to a developer.
 
Picon, however, was skeptical the government could enforce compliance.
 
“For tax on unused land, the owner could build something small and say the land is being used,” he said. “Overall I find using tax often counterproductive especially when you have limited capacity within government to enforce laws

You May Like

Photogallery Pope's Easter Prayer: Peace in Ukraine, Syria

Pontiff also calls for end to terrorist acts in Nigeria, violence in Iraq, and success in peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians More

Abdullah Holds Lead in Afghan Presidential Election

Country's Election Commission says that with half of the ballots counted, former FM remains in the lead with 44 percent of the vote More

Russia-Ukraine Crisis Could Trigger Cyber War

As tensions between Kyiv and Moscow escalate, so too has frequency of online attacks targeting government, news and financial sites More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Ukraine, Russia, United in Faith, Divided in Politicsi
X
Michael Eckels
April 19, 2014
There is a strong historical religious connection between Russia and Ukraine. But what role is religion playing in the current conflict? In the run-up to Easter, Michael Eckels in Moscow reports for VOA.
Video

Video Ukraine, Russia, United in Faith, Divided in Politics

There is a strong historical religious connection between Russia and Ukraine. But what role is religion playing in the current conflict? In the run-up to Easter, Michael Eckels in Moscow reports for VOA.
Video

Video Face of American Farmer is Changing

The average American farmer is now 58 years old, and farmers 65 and older are the fastest growing segment of the population. It’s a troubling trend signaling big changes ahead for American agriculture as aging farmers retire. Reporter Mike Osborne says a new report from the U.S. Census Bureau is suggesting what some of those changes might look like... and why they might not be so troubling.
Video

Video Donetsk Governor: Ukraine Military Assault 'Delicate But Necessary'

Around a dozen state buildings in eastern Ukraine remain in the hands of pro-Russian protesters who are demanding a referendum on self-rule. The governor of the whole Donetsk region is among those forced out by the protesters. He spoke to VOA's Henry Ridgwell from his temporary new office in Donetsk city.
Video

Video Drones May Soon Send Data From High Seas

Drones are usually associated with unmanned flying vehicles, but autonomous watercraft are also becoming useful tools for jobs ranging from scientific exploration to law enforcement to searching for a missing airliner in the Indian Ocean. VOA’s George Putic reports on sea-faring drones.
Video

Video New Earth-Size Planet Found

Not too big, not too small. Not too hot, not too cold. A newly discovered planet looks just right for life as we know it, according to an international group of astronomers. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Copts in Diaspora Worry About Future in Egypt

Around 10 percent of Egypt’s population belong to the Coptic faith, making them the largest Christian minority in the Middle East. But they have become targets of violence since the revolution three years ago. With elections scheduled for May and the struggle between the Egyptian military and Islamists continuing, many Copts abroad are deeply worried about the future of their ancient church. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky visited a Coptic church outside Washington DC.
Video

Video Critics Say Venezuelan Protests Test Limits of Military's Support

During the two months of deadly anti-government protests that have rocked the oil-rich nation of Venezuela, President Nicolas Maduro has accused the opposition of trying to initiate a coup. Though a small number of military officers have been arrested for allegedly plotting against the government, VOA’s Brian Padden reports the leadership of the armed forces continues to support the president, at least for now.
Video

Video More Millenials Unplug to Embrace Board Games

A big new trend in the U.S. toy industry has more consumers switching off their high-tech gadgets to play with classic toys, like board games. This is especially true among the so-called millenial generation - those born in the 1980's and 90's. Elizabeth Lee has more from an unusual café in Los Angeles, where the new trend is popular and business is booming.
Video

Video Google Buys Drone Company

In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
AppleAndroid

World Currencies

EUR
USD
0.7217
JPY
USD
102.17
GBP
USD
0.5949
CAD
USD
1.1009
INR
USD
60.326

Rates may not be current.