Just over four years ago, in August 2013, Helani Galpaya and I came to Nay Pyi Taw to deliver the regulatory module of a multi-day course offered by a number of different organizations, including the GSMA and the World Bank. For me, it the second visit to Myanmar and the first to Nay Pyi Taw, the mysterious new capital of an enigmatic state. For Helani, it was the first visit the country. It is customary in these kinds of events for the “dignitary” who inaugurates the event to make his speech and then leave. Deputy Minister U Thaung Tin was different.
Connected to the earlier post on taxes, is this one about Vodafone India getting served a USD 600 million retroactive tax bill. While Vodafone maintains no tax is due on the 2007 acquisition, it has told the government it is willing to explore the possibility of a “mutually acceptable solution”. Vodafone further points it has become one of India’s largest investors, spending more than £12.8 billion in building its business in the country since 2007. The operator is also one of India’s largest taxpayers.
Sounds so 1960s, but . . . This should change investment risk calculations, in Africa for now. But how broad will the ripples run?
We had the pleasure of engaging with an erudite politician at the inauguration of LIRNEasia’s principal capacity-building event, CPRsouth in Bangkok last week. Former Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva, who used to teach economics at Thammasat U before he went into politics, had this to say, as reported in Bangladesh’s Daily Star, about innovation and the role of the state: “Creativity takes place very much in the private sector, so regulations must be friendly for them,” said Vejjajiva, in his keynote speech at the inaugural session of a two-day conference on Communication Policy Research south 6 (CPRsouth6) in Bangkok on Friday. Vejjajiva, now the leader of the opposition in the House of Representatives of Thailand, also emphasised independence of the regulatory body, but not without accountability. I found it quite a contrast to a long article in the New York Times about how the Chinese state is treating innovation by the private sector, ripping it off and bringing it under the control of the state: The usurping of private enterprise has become so evident that the Chinese have given it a nickname: guojin mintui. That roughly translates as “while the state advances, the privates retreat.
Glimmerings of a return to the bad old days, when governments “nationalized” telecom companies. The end result was pillage by the government flunkies and bad/no service to the public. The Russians are back in this game, but this time through the courts and with a different beneficiary, the local partner oligarch. Already jittery investors were alarmed on Thursday when a Norwegian cellphone company announced that a Siberian court had seized its multibillion-dollar investment in a Russian joint venture and would turn it over to a company thought to be allied with a Russian oligarch. The decision signaled an escalation in a long-running dispute between the Norwegian company, Telenor, and the Alfa Group, an alliance of Russian businessmen that was also at the center of a separate fight with the British oil giant BP last summer.