Thu, Feb 07, 2013 - Page 15 News List

Japan’s Suzuki to resume production in Myanmar

AFP, TOKYO and Washington

Japanese automaker Suzuki Motor Corp said yesterday it would resume production in Myanmar, the latest in a push by Asia’s second-biggest economy to tap the once-isolated state.

Small-vehicle producer Suzuki, which has seen huge success in India with its Maruti Suzuki unit, said it would invest about US$7 million to restart its wholly owned Suzuki (Myanmar) Motor unit in the commercial capital, Yangon.

Production will start in May at the factory that was operated as a joint venture with Myanmar’s government from 1998 and 2010, a Suzuki spokesman said.

The plant closed after the contract expired, the spokesman added, without saying why the agreement was not extended at the time.

The factory will initially produce just 100 Carry mini-trucks monthly for the local market, with up to 90 local employees.

“With Myanmar’s democratization efforts, investment activities [by foreign firms] are in a full swing,” the spokesman said. “The auto market might be in a transition period. But we expect the market to grow, and we wanted to be there when it does.”

On Tuesday, a delegation from Japan’s biggest business lobby, known as Keidanren, told Burmese President Thein Sein that it would provide money and expertise for the country’s development.

Tokyo has said it would forgive ¥300 billion (US$3.2 billion) of the ¥500 billion owed by Myanmar. Last month, the Japanese government said it would extend ¥50 billion of new loans to help the nation upgrade its power systems, boost rural development and fund a planned industrial park.

Meanwhile, the IMF said on Tuesday it was stepping up its policy assistance to Myanmar as it undertakes economic and social reforms.

An IMF team arrived in Myanmar on Thursday last week “to discuss intensification of the IMF’s relations” with the government, as well as civil society representatives and development partners, the global lender said in a statement.

Wrapping up the mission, the head of the team, Anoop Singh, welcomed the country’s progress since emerging from decades of military dictatorship and pointed to Myanmar’s recent debt rescheduling agreements with the World Bank, Asian Development Bank and the Paris Club as a sign of the international community’s commitment to supporting the reform process.

In addition to regular IMF staff visits, the Washington-based institution will boost its capacity building program, including through increased support from the IMF’s technical assistance office in Thailand.

The IMF also aims to open a resident representative office in Myanmar, Singh said.

The World Bank also pledged on Tuesday to help Myanmar improve people’s access to electricity as it hailed a “new beginning” in its relations with the state.

Only one in four people have access to reliable electricity supplies in Myanmar, the development lender said.

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