Myanmar takes steps to reveal the owners of extractive companies
Myanmar’s new beneficial ownership register lays the groundwork for combatting company anonymity by shedding light on the real owners of companies in the extractives sector.
Last month, the Government of Myanmar and Myanmar EITI co-launched a new beneficial ownership register, revealing more information about the owners of companies operating in the country’s extractive sector.
The registry enables users to search mining, oil and gas companies for the identities of individuals owning shares of 5% or more in these companies. Out of the 163 extractive companies that were requested to disclose their beneficial owners through the online form, 121 companies, including four state-owned enterprises, submitted a form with at least some information about their ownership structure.
The Myanmar beneficial ownership register, hosted on the Directorate of Investment and Company Registration website, a branch of the Myanmar government. Source: https://bo.dica.gov.mm/
The launch of the register is a welcome first step along the road to beneficial ownership transparency, and responds to the EITI Requirements on beneficial ownership, effective since 1 January 2020.
“The register signals a strong commitment from the Myanmar government to advance the agenda on beneficial ownership transparency, in line with the EITI Standard,” said EITI Executive Director Mark Robinson.
The platform includes features that are clear and easy to use, displaying companies in alphabetical order, along with the company identification number and the sector in which it operates. The register also reveals the status of each company’s disclosure on beneficial ownership. Companies can be searched or sorted by any of these variables.
The register has particular significance in the context of the extractives industry in Myanmar due to its potential of shedding light on the involvement of politically exposed persons (PEPs). Exposing the beneficial owners of companies and their linkages to PEPs can pave the way to building trust through eliminating corporate anonymity, and for future investments in the sector to improve through more transparency in ownership structures. It also provides a model for other e-government initiatives.
The publication of the register has spurred much interest and debate among local actors and media. While the register is an important first step, there are still remaining issues that should be addressed going forward. To achieve full beneficial ownership transparency, steps will need to be undertaken to ensure that the data is comprehensive and verified through adequate assurance mechanisms. Furthermore, all companies need to fulfil their commitment by submitting correct data into the registry.
Myanmar EITI also highlights that a strong legal basis is necessary to adopt the EITI Standard. To move towards a sustainable, mainstreamed register of beneficial owners, further legal review is planned for 2020. The Myanmar government has tasked a special beneficial ownership multi-stakeholder taskforce with developing a systematic route to disclose collected data on beneficial owners, including their links to politically exposed persons (PEPs).
The beneficial ownership taskforce accepted additional company submissions to the register from end the of February to 17 March, to encourage more participation from extractive companies. Thirty-nine submitted additional information, of which 16 had not previously participated in the initial round of data collection.