SINGAPORE - Myanmar's State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi on Monday (Nov 12) called on foreign businesses to invest in what she called "the last frontier of South-east Asia", saying her government is working hard to make the business environment more attractive for investors.
The country's de facto leader said there are opportunities for investment in sectors including agriculture and related businesses, as well as fishery, education and healthcare services.
"We have land, we have good young working population, we have many unexplored resources," she said in a keynote speech at the Asean Business and Investment Summit (Abis).
"Exploration is exciting, exploration is lucrative, and exploration will help us to develop our country quickly," she told more than 1,000 regional policymakers and business leaders.
The two-day conference is organised annually by the Asean Business Advisory Council on the sidelines of the main Asean Summit, which will be held from Tuesday to Thursday at the Suntec Singapore International Convention and Exhibition Centre.
Ms Suu Kyi recalled that when Singapore became newly independent, the late Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew had said the Republic will catch up with Myanmar in 20 years.
"Singapore is way ahead of us now... We should not wait 20 years to catch up with Singapore, I hope you will help us to catch up with Singapore," she said.
"We know that Myanmar will have to run to catch up with the rest of the world, to catch up with Singapore and all those other Asian nations which have gone before us on the development road," she added.
Building a reformist government that would attract foreign investment is a goal for Ms Suu Kyi, a longtime detainee who had led her National League for Democracy (NLD) party to power in a landslide victory in the 2015 general election, ending decades of military rule.
Once regarded a democracy icon, she is facing global pressure over the slow pace of legal, political and economic reforms and perceived inaction over the violence of the Muslim Rohingya minority.
Over 700,000 Rohingya refugees from Myanmar's Rakhine State had fled to Bangladesh to seek refuge following a military crackdown last year.
But the two countries have pledged to begin the process of repatriation.
The European Union is threatening to impose trade sanctions on Myanmar over allegations of genocide, a Bloomberg report said, a move lauded by human rights activists but could risk hurting many foreign companies that have moved in after democratic transition from military rule.
Ms Suu Kyi was previously in Singapore in August for a four-day working visit at the invitation of Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.
Economic cooperation between Singapore and Myanmar is growing, with the Republic being consistently among the country's top investors and trading partners in recent years.
The meetings this week mark the end of Singapore's chairmanship of Asean, which will be rotated to Thailand next year.
At the Abis conference, panel discussions cover topics such as smart cities, digitalisation, women in business, young entrepreneurs, sustainability and family businesses.
Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad and Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha are expected to deliver keynote speeches on Tuesday.