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Regulatory Environment in Myanmar

In 2015 Myanmar held its first democratic election, which resulted in a landslide victory for the National League for Democracy (NLD) and marked an end to decades of military rule. The civilian government formed by the NLD, however, is bound by the military’s 2008 Constitution of Myanmar, which stipulates that 25% of seats in the parliament are reserved for serving military officers, ensuring the latter have a continual influence in the bicameral parliament. Besides, the ministries of home, border affairs and defense have to be each headed by a serving military officer, and one of the country’s two vice presidents is appointed by the military.

Since early 2012, western countries started to ease sanctions against Myanmar in response to the latter’s political reforms and parliamentary elections. Following Aung San Suu Kyi’s US visit in September 2016, the US reinstated Myanmar’s eligibility for the benefits under the GSP scheme in November 2016, allowing Myanmar to export duty-free thousands of products to the US. As early as in 2013, the EU had lifted its economic sanctions (except military arms sales) against Myanmar.

  • Executive – The President, elected by members of Parliament, is rightfully the head of state and leads the Cabinet. However, the post of State Counsellor, which is similar to that of prime minister, was created in April 2016 to allow for a greater role for Aung San Suu Kyi within the government of Myanmar. The President, Cabinet and State Counsellor serve for five-year terms.

  • Legislative – A bicameral legislative structure consisting of the House of Nationalities (upper house) and the House of Representatives (lower house). One quarter of the parliamentary seats are appointed by the military with the remaining seats elected in single-seat constituencies by majority vote. All legislative members are either elected or appointed for five-year terms.

  • Judiciary – It is made up of the Supreme Court, High Courts and other subordinate and local courts at different levels. Much of Myanmar’s legislation is based on a unique combination of codified British common law and recent Myanmar legislation.

With many laws outdated, an extensive upgrade of Myanmar’s legal system and legislation is required with the NLD-led government showing willingness for reform. New laws have been introduced and are being drafted. For example, Myanmar’s Investment Law (2016) was introduced as a consolidation of Myanmar’s Foreign Investment Law (2012) and Myanmar Citizens’ Investment Law (2013), reducing the differences between local and foreign investors. After mounting an overhaul of the century-old Myanmar Companies Act (1914) for three years, Myanmar Companies Law was enacted in December 2017 for implementation in August 2018. The new law will make it easier for businesses to set up and is expected to encourage informal businesses and unregistered entities to register.


A Practical Guide to Doing Business in Myanmar

  1. Regulatory Environment
  2. Establishing a Presence
  3. Intellectual Property Protection
  4. Staff Recruitment
  5. Tax Considerations
  6. Import/Export Procedures
  7. Further Information

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Content provided by Picture: HKTDC Research
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