Entrepreneurs are magicians of finding loopholes in the law to make their business a success. They also can push the limits of the law to make the government change the laws to suite changing demands in business. Over the last 2 years Myanmar has had to overhaul the business law which needed an update of over 100 years.
The Myanmar today is very different from the Myanmar I was introduced to in 2006. When I arrived to live in Yangon in 2010 there was an understanding that the way things were done were not how the laws were written. It was the wild east. If you had enough money and connections you could get anything done. Even government workers at the time suggested that you do it the unlawful way as to avoid a bottleneck.
When I moved here in 2010 to live I’d ask…..
What does the Law say?
This was merely for myself to know the law and which laws needed to be followed or not followed.
Then I’d ask…..
How is it done?
This would give me my options of how to solve the problem. Usually there were an array of options from quick to terribly impossible. I tended to go in the middle as to make sure I mostly followed the law in case someone asked later.
This was true even for starting a business. Just start the business, if you put up a sign you pay some local tax. If you didn’t put up a sign you didn’t. If your business grows big enough you then should register the business. Some of this still exists today but the new laws are closing a lot of these gaps so that business is clear and open. I mean, when I arrived in Myanmar 80% of business in the country of black (off the books).
Now with the reforms of the Ministry of Planning and Finance, Ministry of Commerce, Tax office and DICA, people are paying taxes. Money is going from black to white so that people can get loans from the banks and people can do partnerships with international companies.
Today Myanmar is slightly different. There are still multiple ways to do things but those things are done within the parameters of the law within relationships. When entering Myanmar, you’ll need good relationships to get things done so you know what the laws are, and how you should follow them.
Written By- Charles Ryan Russell (CEO of Myanmar Business Answers)