Businessperson U Khin Hlaing is no stranger to controversy. A well-known entrepreneur, he currently sits on Yangon City Development Committee, but spoke to Zay Yar Lin about throwing his hat into the ring to sit in the Pyithu Hluttaw from Yangon’s Kyeemyindaing township. Known as an outspoken politician, he was vocal in opposing four property developments near Shwedagon Pagoda earlier in 2015.
What are the prospects for developing the local economy and encouraging foreign investment after the election?
Speaking from a businessperson’s point of view, Myanmar needs to make many changes from its current situation. Foreign investment entering Myanmar depends on political stability and strong economic policy set by the new government. But the government also needs to protect the interests of locals when foreign investment enters, as well as the foreign investment.
The new government needs to be a government that can make good laws to protect both sides, and implement better policies to help the business sector develop. If not, foreign direct investment or anyone else entering Myanmar will see losses – and local businesspeople also will as well.
Businesspeople have been saying in seminars that Myanmar’s economy is slowing, and business is not in a good condition at the moment. Many are blaming this on the election. Is this right?
All people know the business situation was good from 2010 to 2013, with the current government taking office in 2010, but the situation deteriorated a little in 2014 and 2015. Unsuccessful projects are beginning to appear when the government reached its third and fourth year, though there was success until the third year. There has been currency speculation, based on the government’s moves in business.
Everyone knows the current economic situation is slowing. To recover, it is necessary there is political stability as well as other facts. But it is a bit too early to say exactly what the main facts are to recover the situation. We will be able to see these more clearly when the new government takes office in 2016.
If you are elected to the hluttaw, what is your first priority regarding economic development, as an experienced businessperson?
It is necessary to have political stability as well as rule of law to develop the economy. Laws need to be steadfast and applied without exception, and legal action must be taken on offenders. If everyone follows the rules and regulations, there is no doubt the country’s economy will be successful. But there needs to be mutual trust between the government and the people. The government needs to be a real government that is happy to work for the interests of people, as well as creating fair economic competition.
The state needs to also protect the interests of both employers and employees. These cases can only be successfully pursued when the laws are stable. If not, don’t think the economy will be better when a new government takes power.
Election campaigns like to say that “change” is needed. What kind of change? What would people like to see?
This is a difficult situation. But people always hope for something better, regardless as to whether it is a new government. People hope for the best when a leader takes office. People should continue with their work whatever government takes office.
A state needs to create management, a taxation system and a social security net … but the main core is to depend on oneself. So people need to select [a politican] who supports them. From my point of view, I would like people to emphasise the municipal election rather than the upcoming general election.
What kind of challenges do you face as you contest the election?
I have no particular challenge with the election, but I am busy with work as a [YCDC official]. As you know, this is a busy job, and it leaves me with little time to canvass voters.
I will pursue my strategies … I don’t canvass too much to get votes. If I am selected, I won’t stop as a hluttaw representative. If I am not included as a decision-maker, I will come back to contest the Yangon City Development Committee election in February 2016, if I don’t believe the current hluttaw. I don’t want to waste my time just saying words.
I understand there are more than 90 political parties contesting the upcoming election. As a well-known person, how will you contest the election as an independent, without joining a political party?
In all the elections I have contest – 2010, 2012 and 2015 – I have done so as an independent candidate, as it allows voters to vividly see the ability of a person. Independent candidates are under the influence of the people, not a political party. People know I stand by the people.
I didn’t become an independent because I was rejected by a party. I chose to be an independent candidate to contest Kyeemyindaing township in the Pyithu Hluttaw.
Regarding my performance, people can see that I have done a lot in the last six or seven months since I was elected as a YCDC member.
On the question of voting for local candidates or political parties, which do you think is right?
Both are right. From the side of the political party, it has the benefit of being able to establish a government – but we don’t know the quality of a person. I don’t want to see a situation where parliamentarians just raise their hands in the hluttaw along with everyone else.
While there should be different views in a political party, all need to follow the path that their party sets.
Moreover, political party leaders need to allow for freedom of thought among their followers and open up ways to develop their performance.
It is also very difficult to remove a person from a political party if his or her quality deteriorates when reaching the hluttaw. Though it is easy to remove a person from a political party, it is difficult to remove a person from parliament. So, the answer of whether voters should select the candidate or the party is up to the voter. But, for me, selecting a person is right.