YANGON, MYANMAR – The Asian Development Bank (ADB) and Government of Australia are providing combined assistance of $10.5 million to promote private sector development in Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS) countries. Myanmar will be a major recipient of this assistance.

“The private sector in Myanmar is facing a number of challenges to improve productivity and competitiveness,” said Winfried Wicklein, ADB’s Country Director in Myanmar. “A regional perspective is especially important for Myanmar businesses as the country’s economy opens up and becomes increasingly interconnected regionally and globally.”

ADB’s technical assistance grant of $500,000, with cofinancing of $10 million from the Government of Australia, will support the Mekong Business Initiative—a policy advisory and advocacy facility which promotes private sector development in the GMS. Its work will focus on reforming the enabling and regulatory environment for private business, and creating more cross border opportunities for companies in Myanmar, Cambodia, Lao People’s Democratic Republic (Lao PDR), and Viet Nam. This will pave the way for Mekong Region firms to take part in regional and global supply chains.

The start-up of the ASEAN Economic Community in 2015 is expected to open new opportunities for Myanmar businesses. A strong and fair regulatory environment is important, especially for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) who make up well over 90% of all businesses and 75% of employment in Myanmar, Cambodia, Lao PDR, and Viet Nam. As many of these firms operate informally, they often struggle to obtain access to finance and other support services.

The Mekong Business Initiative will engage closely with Thailand and the People’s Republic of China through the GMS Business Forum. It will also seek partnerships with strong regional and global institutions promoting good business practices. Among the targeted impacts will be an increase in the number of new private companies registered in the 4 countries and a rise in the number of SMEs which export. The Mekong Business Initiative activities will run from December 2014 to November 2017.

ADB, based in Manila, is dedicated to reducing poverty in Asia and the Pacific through inclusive economic growth, environmentally sustainable growth, and regional integration. Established in 1966, it is owned by 67 members – 48 from the region. In 2013, ADB assistance totaled $21.0 billion, including co-financing of $6.6 billion.

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