June 7th, 2012
02:12 PM GMT
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Yangon, Myanmar (CNN) - Myanmar has been closed off to most of the world for the last 50 years. But as its government continues down a road of reform, Myanmar is emerging as the missing link between China and India, with investors wondering if it’s time to re-enter the country.

A half century of military rule meant economic isolation for Myanmar, which saw it sink from being one of the most prosperous countries in Asia to one of the poorest. But economic reforms are happening in tandem with political reforms and the new civilian government is keen to prove to the world that the country is open for business and is no longer such a risky investment.

A recent oil and gas conference in the city of Yangon attracted potential investors from around the world. As sanctions are being eased as a reward for political reforms, more people are looking to make money here.

David La Prade heads up USR Drilling Services, a U.S. company that struck a deal to supply a local company with oil detection and drilling technologies. He believes the benefits outweigh the risks.

“You come in early, you may stub your toe, make mistakes,” he told CNN’s Paula Hancocks. “All potential new frontiers are full of business landmines, but you've got to come in early to have that opportunity.”

Investment conditions are definitely improving. A new investment law has been drafted, setting out tax exemptions and reliefs, land-use terms, and giving potential investors a clearer legal infrastructure to work within. The central bank also launched a managed float of its currency, the kyat, in April. In the past the official rate was more than 100 times stronger than the multiple black market rates, which made official business costly.

But the increased investor interest is not necessarily translating into an instant influx of investment.

“Lots of business delegations are coming to Myanmar but not putting money on the table - for good reason - they're waiting to see what happens in the next few months,” said Tony Picon, of global real estate firm Colliers International.

The United States, the European Union and others are easing long-standing sanctions on the country, allowing their citizens to directly invest in Myanmar.

The country’s tourist industry struck PR gold when U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton visited last December, and was filmed at Myanmar's most sacred Buddhist pagoda and most popular attraction, the 2,500-year-old Shwedagon Pagoda. It’s now attracting more visitors than ever.

“Hillary was coming before us,” said Israeli tourist Gladys Blank. “I figured if it was good enough for her, then it was good enough for us.”

Myanmar's immigration department says the number of tourists coming to the country has almost doubled in four years. The only problem is that the increased number of visitors has highlighted a serious shortage of hotel rooms in Yangon.

“It's becoming a big issue, the government is worried and even the hoteliers are concerned that it actually will rebound and will hurt the tourism industry,” said Picon.  “Business people will pay, the tourism industry is the one that will be affected.”

But all these changes have done little to affect the daily lives of many Myanmar citizens. More than 30% of the people here live in poverty, according to the CIA World Factbook. The benefits of the country opening up politically and economically could take years to trickle down to those who need help most.

soundoff (15 Responses)
  1. American G.I. Joe

    Being influenced by China is such a drag. Some countries lost 50 years because of it.

    June 7, 2012 at 9:10 pm |
  2. Liva Ed

    man ego with military ambitions destroyed myanmar and some countries in Africa.

    June 8, 2012 at 9:27 am |
  3. Ryan

    Right now, Rakhine, one of the states on the western border in Myanmar has been invaded and attacked by Rohingya. Burmse, Myanmarnese, people were brutally attacked and killed. Over 25 people have been murdered so far. These people need help from NGOs and other Organizations. Right now I don't see any news about that matter in any international media. I hope somebody sees my comment and let the media, NGOs and the world know about what is happening in my country. UN and the international attention is required.

    June 8, 2012 at 7:56 pm |
  4. Burmese

    Well, Rohingya are terrorist in fact. They get financial support from Arab league and trying to establish Muslim State in Burma , and also linked up with Al-Qaeda. Things are getting worse and, if no government eliminate those extremists soon Asia region will become the HQ of terrorism.

    June 10, 2012 at 1:46 am |
  5. Buddhism

    It is surprised why CNN neglect the terrorist news in western part of Myanmar. Is it nothing profit for US?

    June 11, 2012 at 10:27 am |
  6. raika45

    These Rohingyas are nothing but economic parasites.The only thing they can do well is produce children Each family has no less than 6 children.They may have no proper income to feed their family, but children are produced regularly.

    June 11, 2012 at 2:18 pm |
  7. John David

    If you look at the treatment of ethnic minorities by the Burmese regime, you'll see there's more to this story. It is one of the world's most brutal regimes. Blame must first be placed on the Burmese government, and its genocidal generals.

    June 11, 2012 at 5:27 pm |
  8. Neil Harrison

    Because this is CNN, non-bias international media. And minorities are always oppressed by brutal regimes. Burmese government and media never release information of critical situation before this one and it tells that something abnormal is happening there.

    June 11, 2012 at 7:30 pm |
  9. International Citizen

    Right now in Rakhine state, western part of Myanmar, Burmese people are brutally attacked by Rohinger people who are living in Myanmar land for many years illegally. So far 20 villages have been destroyed and more than 25 Burmese are brutally murdered by Rohinger illegal immigrants. For detail please follow this link.

    June 12, 2012 at 5:24 am |
  10. International Citizen

    Residents in Maungdaw Township of Rakhine State are now fleeing from the homes as Rohingya terrorists are setting fire to the houses.

    June 12, 2012 at 6:00 am |
  11. International Citizen

    Bengali Rohingyas prowl around outside Rakhine city

    People from villages nearby Maungdaw Township are accommodated at the rescue camps as their houses were set fire by Rohingyas.

    The total number of Rakhine people in one of the rescue camps in Maungdaw Twonship was 400 persons in 9 June afternoon.

    With regard to the affairs in Rakhine State, the Rakhine National Network made an announcement on 9 June. Their statement includes to publicize the death toll and to search immediately for the loss of Rakhine people, to provide food items, water, medicines and other household items, to protect the lives of Rakhine people and to take legal action against the terrorist Rohingyas.

    Although some Rohingya mobs gave up their plan to intrude Sittway Township and returned homes at 6 pm, some of them burned down Rakhinese houses in Mingan Ward of the town.

    Myanmar navy boats have been patrolling along the country’s maritime territory starting from the morning, according to the report of State media.

    In Yangon, about 300 Rakhine people circled around the Shwedagon Pagoda clockwise on the platform of the pagoda by carrying placards written ‘Save Arakan’ and ‘Protect all nationalities’. After worshiping the pagoda, they shared merits to the dead in riots by keeping silent for five minutes.

    June 12, 2012 at 6:07 am |
  12. Gina

    Hi!Very Informative blog you have ! It would be good if you will visit my website too.http://ads.com.mm/?cid=4fd60e94e4b0fa6db841e33c&utm_campaign=ads_mm_lb_blog_gvisoy&utm_source=ads_lb_blog&utm_medium=lb_blog

    June 15, 2012 at 11:35 am |
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    Если уже пора заняться ремонтом, но не знаете где закупаться строительными материалами, то можете обратиться к данному сайту, где не просто каталог организаций, торгующих тем или иным видом строительной продукции, а подробные статьи о технологиях как строительства, так и обыденного ремонта жилых и нежилых помещений.

    Чтобы помочь разобраться со всеми тонкостями строительства и ремонта создан специальный сайт, на котором обсуждаются различные профессиональные вопросы на доступном рядовым жителям языке. Также даны важные советы и организации, занимающиеся торговлей строительными материалами и оказанием услуг в сфере строительства и ремонта.


    August 20, 2012 at 10:19 pm |
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