British companies will be drafted in by the Burmese government to help kick-start its financial services sector.
Last year, the majority of sanctions were lifted against Burma (now officially called Myanmar) allowing it to trade freely with the rest of the world while opening its economy up to foreign investment.
This saw Western companies clamour to enter Burma, which has a population of 59 million and was a military dictatorship between 1962 and 2011. It was once regarded as one of Asia’s richest nations.
A year on from the sanctions being lifted, a financial services taskforce has been launched by the UK and Burmese governments to help develop financial products and services aimed at providing credit.
Other objectives include developing education, training and qualifications for the financial sector. The taskforce will be jointly chaired on the UK side by Standard Chartered and the UK government
Lord Green, UK minister for trade and investment, said: “Financial services is a sector in which the UK is a world leader and I am confident that British business can play an important role in supporting President Thein Sein and his government in achieving the economic reform they are striving for.”
Along with Standard Chartered, the UK financial services sector will be represented by Allen & Overy, Prudential and other key financial institutions.
A spokesman for UKTI added: "This will improve the business environment for British companies looking to operate in the sector and the myriad other companies dependent on their services."
Burma’s current banking system is massively outdated and it could take up to seven years to bring it in line with developed nations. It is hoped more British banks will be invited to consult on Burma’s financial services sector, bringing opportunities for finance-savvy expats.
Anton Corro, country manager of Thailand and Myanmar for MasterCard, said: “Since the easing of sanctions things have been moving fast. The government has passed foreign investment laws and is bringing in new banking reform laws. But Myanmar has been isolated for more than four decades and a lot of its systems are obsolete. While significant investment is expected, change will not happen overnight.”
Foreign banks will be able to set up joint ventures with Burmese banks by 2015. About 18 Western banks have already set up representative offices in the former British colony, including Standard Chartered which was granted a licence in January.
Burma is also looking to lure foreign investors by reforming its legal and regulatory framework, and has plans to open up its stock exchange within the next two years.