Yangon: The Future for Foreigners?
As Yangon rises into the global scope with new policies, developments, and investments, a question for both locals and foreigners is where does the city lie for its new chapter into becoming a city of the world? For many years, Myanmar has been on the radar for global investors as one of the potential cities for the future, but whether it is a liveable city for foreigners is still a question that has yet to have a clear answer.
Aside from the 2030 Plan released by Yangon Heritage Trust in junction with Japan’s JICA to propose a sustainable future city of Yangon, there are also many other factors that come into play to build the debate of whether Yangon as a city is becoming globalized. Some of the cases that are developing Yangon’s portfolio for foreigners in the future discuss topics of identity, language, and immigration.
To call a city home requires identification towards a place. Rupert Mann, a program manager for Yangon Heritage Trust believes that preservation of colonial buildings in downtown Yangon are a way to differentiate itself in competition of tourism and investment with other Southeast Asian countries.1 In my previous blog posts, I have mentioned the iconic Strand Hotel as an example of showing how historical cornerstones of Yangon’s foreign integration a century back can deem as a successful investment and invitation for foreign investment and tourism.
Along with architecture, another area of change that is moving in Yangon is language. As a country, Myanmar is home of the native language, Burmese, plus more than one hundred ethnic dialects. For years since the colonial reign, Myanmar has included English as the official second language. However, because of years of neglect, the standard of English has not been taken seriously until recent years. In an interview with a teacher at NIEC International, Benjamin Htet Wunna says that, “In the past, if you didn’t have the language skills for English, you could survive in the job. But nowadays it seems quite different because it has become a very important skill.”2 In the years since Yangon has opened its doors to foreign investment, language has become a survival strategy but also a change that can be a invitation to a more feasible life for people looking to live in Yangon.
Lastly, one of the shifting policies in recent years for Myanmar is the immigration policies for tourists and expats. On January 11 2016, the Ministry of Immigration offered six new types of entry visa and three types of re-entry visa to international visitors giving foreign visitors 12 different types of entry visas in total.3 What this has meant for cities like Yangon is a steep increase in the amount of tourists that enter in and out of the city driving revenue, commerce, and tourism. With new policies changing to bring in more foreigners, the denominations that will be represented in the future could change.
- Schlaefli, S. (2016, October 14). Is this the future of Yangon? Myanmar Times. Retrieved December 28, 2017, from https://www.mmtimes.com/lifestyle/23103-is-this-the-future-of-yangon.html
- Wong, M. (2016, February 22). Myanmar’s citizens look to English language to bring better prospects. Asia Pacific. Retrieved December 28, 2017, from https://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/asiapacific/myanmar-s-citizens-look-to-english-language-to-bring-better-pros-8187874
- Thu, E. (2016, January 11). Immigration grants new visa types. Myanmar Times. Retrieved December 28, 2017, from https://www.mmtimes.com/national-news/yangon/18408-immigration-grants-new-visa-types.html