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Myanmar looks to open insurance market to foreign firms in early 2017

Myanmar's government plans to ease various restrictions onthe country's insurance industry as part of efforts to hasten theliberalization of the sector, The MyanmarTimes reported Sept. 23, citing an official at the country's financialregulator.

The government plans to allow foreign firms to operate inMyanmar's insurance sector in early 2017, as well as scrap various restrictionsplaced on local insurers that require them to offer the same products at thesame price, said U Thant Zin, an official from Myanmar's financial regulationdepartment under the Ministry of Finance and Planning.

Myanmar's previous government in 2012 private companies to enter thecountry's insurance market in 2013 and said they would be able to compete inthe market in 2015. While more than 20 foreign companies subsequently openedrepresentative offices, they are still waiting for the chance to do business.

U Thant Zin said that work has already begun on a"liberalization roadmap" to address issues in the sector, which willbe presented to the government in December. He added that prior to allowingforeign players to operate in Myanmar, the regulator has to first ensure thatlocal insurers will have enough capacity to compete with them.

The official noted that efforts to liberalize the insurancesector in Myanmar will involve discussions on whether to allow 100%foreign-owned insurers to operate, or require them to set up joint ventureswith local firms.

U Thant Zin said that the process will also involve decidingwhich sectors where insurance liberalization is most important. While theliberalization of life and health insurance are most important, these servicesare intertwined with the health sector, the structure of Myanmar's populationand many other market factors, he added.