Special Economic Zones in Myanmar: a strategic issue regarding development for neighboring countries
本文由作者Charles Casta 授权本站专栏发布，中文部分由饶溪@缅甸观察编译
缅甸今日的转变具体而言归功于五年来的一系列改革措施：投资法改革、政治空间和媒体管制的放开以及经济领域的宽松政策。这些举措使得缅甸从一个相对独立的经济实体逐渐迈上了亚洲国家普遍经历的出口型增长道路。而缅甸当前正在建设的三个经济特区：迪拉瓦（Thilawa，地处仰光的税收优惠产业园区 ）, 土瓦（Dawei，位于Thanintaryi 省) 以及皎漂（Kyaukphyu，位于若开邦省)，就是绝佳的例证。
迪拉瓦经济特区由缅甸政府与日本政府联合设立。缅甸政府占股10%，日本政府通过日本国际协力机构（Japan International Cooperation Agency）占股10%，缅甸迪亚拉控股集团（Myanmar Thilawa SEZ Holdings Public Limited）占股41%，剩余的39%归属于三家日本企业（丸红、住友、三菱）。在总体占股49%的情况下，迪拉瓦经济特区成为了日本在缅甸最大的投资项目。
与之相反，日本（以及下文讨论的印度）则逐渐成为了缅甸经济开放的最大赢家。日本事实上也在通过各种各样的举措使其对缅甸的投资更进一步。从2013年开始，日本首先豁免了缅甸53.2亿美元的债务，并进一步宣布将逐步向缅甸提供巨额援助，用于地区稳定和基础设施建设。2013年12月，东京市与内比都市(Nay Pyi Taw)签署了一项投资协定，旨在放松、推进和保护日资投资。协议的首要目的是创建吸引日商赴缅投资的良好环境，迪拉瓦经济特区的建成可以看作是这一协定的成果。随着工业园区在迪拉瓦经济特区的发育，日本企业不但能够充分享受东南亚新兴市场这一历史机遇，其对缅甸的政治和文化影响也会加深，而这一切都将不利于中国。
土瓦经济特区项目的建设旨在通过建设价值500亿美元的工业区和深水港连接泰缅甸两国该项目起源于2008年泰国和缅甸政府签署的一系列合作备忘录，两年之后，缅甸向泰国ITD公司（Italian-Thai Development Corporation Limited）批准了60年特许，授权开发深水港、产业园区、以及连接泰缅两国的公路及铁路。但由于财务问题，ITD在2013年被迫退出项目。原由其持有的特许经营权也被转给一家特殊目的实体（SPV）。该实体起初由两国政府平等占股50%控制，而到了去年年末，日本也获得了均等的控制权（各占三分之一）。
实际上，缅甸政府在去年8月与多家企业组成的企业联合（包括此前因财务困难退出的ITD）签署了新的特许经营协议，授权建设土瓦经济特区。新的企业联合由ITD、日泰合资洛察纳工业园公司（Rojana Industrial Park Public Company）以及另外一家泰国公司（Thai LNG Plus International Company）组成。
- 泰国同样能够从通行能力的提高中获益。从北碧省到拉廊府（Ranong Province），区域通行能力的提高将对这些泰缅边境区域的商贸、产业合作和旅游业产生促进作用。随着工业中心及物流中心的建成，土瓦将会成为缅甸大陆产业发展的领导角色，同时将成为整个湄公河地区的贸易枢纽。
皎漂经济特区按照计划将会重新整合一个深水港以及缅甸西部若开邦（Rakhine State）的工业区，这一区域与孟加拉国相邻并通往孟加拉湾。与土瓦和迪拉瓦由多国政府联合控制不同，皎漂经济特区项目是由企业主导运作的，其中大部分是中国企业。中国中信集团有限公司（CITIC Group Corporation）占股85%，负责基础设施建设，其余部分由缅甸政府持有。
皎漂经济特区的建设同样也体现了中国对所谓的“珍珠链战略”（ “String of Pearl Strategy”）的贯彻。通过实施这一战略，中国将有效增强在一系列地区的参与能力，并提高在区域主要港口（孟加拉的吉大港、巴基斯坦的瓜达尔港以及斯里兰卡的科伦坡港）的活动能力。为了制衡这种影响，印度目前正在若开邦首府实兑（Sittwe）建设一个港口。同时也在兴建连接印缅两国的高速公路。
从目前的实际情况来看，留给中国队的时间不多了。鉴于中国在缅甸军政时期所处的立场，自缅甸2011年逐渐开放并重回国际社区起，中国对缅甸的影响力出现了下降的趋势。依照昂山素季领导的反对党在去年11月的议会选举情况来看，这种趋势有可能加剧。在今年春天由全国民主联盟（National League for Democracy）领导建立的缅甸新政府被认为将会将缅甸的发展路线引出中国的轨道。在这样的状况下，抛开逐渐增长的反中情绪不谈，皎漂经济特区将成为中国维持中缅纽带的关键。
Special Economic Zones in Myanmar: a strategic issue regarding development for neighboring countries
The Republic of the Union of Myanmar, also known as Burma, is moving towards speedy economic openness since 2011. And figures confirm the economic growth: +7.8% in 2013/14, + 8.3% in 2014/15 and between 8% and 9.3% for the current fiscal year, according different estimates.
This transformation was made possible by several changes operated since almost five years: new investment laws, opening up of the political sphere as well as media and economic domains. Myanmar, a relatively insulated economy, is now adopting the export oriented growth formula which has been followed by several other ASEAN countries. The constructions of special economic zones (industrial areas with preferential taxes policies) in Thilawa (Yangon region), Dawei (Thanintaryi region) or Kyaukphyu (Rakhine State) are perfect examples.
Thilawa, symbol of China’s decline influence?
Thilawa SEZ is a joint venture between Myanmar (which owns 10% stake in the zone) and Japan through the Japan International Cooperation Agency (10%). It was also supported by a myanmarese private consortium, Myanmar Thilawa SEZ Holdings Public Limited (41%) and a japanese private consortium of three companies (Marubeni, Mitsubishi and Sumitomo – 39%). With 49% owned, Thilawa is the biggest japanese investment project in Myanmar.
Thilawa currently hosts 44 companies from 12 countries. Half (23) are from Japan. Others are divided between asian countries such as Thailand, Vietnam, Singapore, Malaysia, Taiwan, Hong Kong, China or South Korea and “Occidental countries” like Australia, Sweden or United States. Behind those facts, Myanmar is in fact trying to reduce its historical economic dependance on China by diversifying its trade partners and sources of investments. For instance, between 1988 and 2013, the Cathay’s (english word to characterize China) share in Myanmar foreign development investments accounted for 42% of the $33.67 billion. But the nature of the chinese projects (Letpadaung copper mine, Myitsone dam, oil and gas pipelines) — including concerns about forcibly-relocated populations, land confiscation, environmental hazards, and the inflow of cheap goods and labor — made China unpopular among burmese citizens. On the contrary, Japan can be seen as one of the big winners (as well as India as discussed below) the burmese economic openness. Indeed, Japan is stepping up its investments in Myanmar through a variety of initiatives. Since 2013, Japan cancelled the burmese US$ 5.32 billion debt before to announce its intention to pladge to provide hundreds of millions aid for peace and infrastructure projects. For instance, two years ago, in December 2013, an investment agreement for liberalisation, promotion and protection of investment was signed between Tokyo and Nay Pyi Taw. The first goal of the agreement was to increase the flow of japanese investment to Myanmar by creating favourable investment climate for the japanese investors. And Thilawa SEZ can be seen as a consequence of this agreement. The SEZ, which is going to become the first such industrial park built in the entire Southeast Asian region offers both to Japan new market opportunities for its companies as well as political and social influence…at the expense of China. In 2011, governments of Thailand and Myanmar invited Japan to become a strategic partner in the Dawei SEZ. India is also a stakeholder in the Dawei project. Speculations are rife that Japan is promoting the Thilawa SEZ so as to counter China’s economic and strategic clout in Myanmar. While one cannot overlook the strategic connotations embedded in the project, it is also evident that both Myanmar and Japan have their own set of reasons and rationales to push for Thilawa SEZ.
Dawei, a “battleground” between Thailand and Japan
The Dawei SEZ project aims to connect Myanmar to Thailand through this US$50-billion industrial area and deep-sea port. The project was launched in 2008 through the signature of a memorandum of understanding between Myanmar and Thailand governments. Two years later, Myanmar granted a 60-year concession to ITD to develop a deep sea port, industrial estate, and road and rail link to Thailand. But in 2013, ITD had been pulled out of the project in 2013 due to financial troubles. The concession rights were transferred to a Special Purpose Vehicle, which was initially 50:50 owned by the two governments, and since last december by Japan too (1/3 each).
Indeed, last August, Myanmar signed a concession agreement with a consortium of private developers, including ITD, for the Dawei special economic zone (SEZ) almost two years after its withdrew from the project citing financial difficulties. The new consortium includes ITD, the japanese-thai joint venture Rojana Industrial Park Public Company and the Thai LNG Plus International Company. This reshuffle echoes the the japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe which said last year will support Dawei SEZ. Why ? Many reasons underline why Dawei SEZ is expected to become, like Thilawa, one of the most important SEZ worldwide regarding its strategic location and economic potential.
- Dawei SEZ provides direct acces to Andaman Sea and a link to Thailand Gulf. It represents a new commercial gateway, linking Mekong region to the Indian ocean, providing thus an alternative that will lessen dependence on the Strait of Malacca while reducing time and cost of transportation.
- Thailand is currently building a two lanes road to Kanchanaburi province. It will help to create a connectivity enhancement among burmese landlocked cities (Dawei, Myeik or Kawt Thaung). It should promote industrial linkage between those areas and develop transportation networks between important cities and, on a long term basis, a more balanced regional development in southern Myanmar (industrial, livelihood…)
- On the other hand, Thailand will also benefit from this connectivity enhancement in various domains such as commercial trade, industrial cooperation or tourism in border regions from Kanchanaburi to Ranong. Dawei could become a hub of industrial activities and logistics and play a leading role for the industrialisation of mainland Myanmar while in the same facilitating trade of the whole Mekong region.
Kyaukphyu, China’s …
Kyaukphyu SEZ will normally regroup a deep sea port as well as an industrial area in western’s Myanmar Rakhine State, which borders Bangladesh and the Bay of Bengal. Unlike Thilawa or Dawei which are joint venture between governments, Kyaukphyu projet is run by private companies, mostly chinese. Indeed, CITIC Group Corporation, which holds 85% stake (Myanmar government owning the remaining 15%), is in charge of building infrastructures. It holds while Myanmar government owns the rest.
China’s cooperation in the SEZ is in progress since almost a decade, which underlines a long term chinese strategy. Indeed, in 2009, Myanmar’s Ministry of Energy signed a memorandum of understanding with China National Petroleum Corp. This agreement concerned the construction of an oil pipeline linking Kyaukphyu with Yunnan’s province. That pipeline, which was completed in January 2015 is highly strategic for China, carrying nearly 10% of the country’s imports and allowing Middle East crude to bypass the Strait of Malacca.It also helps to open up Yunnan’s province, referring to the Chinese strategy to rebalance economically the country between the rich and urban East and the poor and rural West.
Kyaukphyu SEZ represents also a chance for China to reinforce its “string of pearl strategy”, extending its involvement to a new location, in addition to its activities in regional ports (Chittagong in Bangladesh, Gwadar in Pakistan and Colombo in Sri Lanka). To counter this influence, India is currently constructing a port in Sittwe (also in Rakhine State) and a highway linking the two countries. In reality, time is running out for China. Indeed, after being one of the historic allies of the military junta during the years of diplomatic isolation, Beijing sees its influence gradually decrease since 2011 and the Myanmar’s openess which has lead to newewed relations with the international community. This trend could intensify, following the Aung San Suu Kyi’s opposition party in the past November’s parliamentary elections. The National League for Democracy will form a new government this spring, and its leader is expected to seek to move the country out of China’s orbit. Is this context, Kyaukphyu is essential way for China to stay connected with Myanmar despite the growing “anti-chinese” sentiment.
Translated by Rao Xi of MyanmarOB.com, from Charles Casta’s article Special Economic Zones in Myanmar: a strategic issue regarding development for neighboring countries