Myanmar's leader on Friday signed into law an eagerly awaited foreign investment bill, while the World Bank pledged to resume aid to the country as it emerges from decades of military rule.
Global corporate giants from Coca-Cola to Visa are lining up to enter the impoverished but resource-rich nation, as Western nations roll back sanctions against the one-time pariah state.
The World Bank announced it would inject $245 million of aid into Myanmar, resuming assistance after a quarter-century absence.
The Washington-based institution closed its Yangon office in 1987 and ceased new lending after the then-ruling junta stopped making payments on debts worth hundreds of millions of dollars from previous aid programmes.
The enactment of the investment bill follows weeks of wrangling about how far to open the doors to overseas firms, with business "cronies" of the former junta thought to have opposed rapid change.
"Investors are waiting for the bill to be approved. That's why he signed it as soon as he could," Zaw Htay, an official in President Thein Sein's office, told AFP by telephone.
He said the former general wanted to enact the bill before flying to Laos to attend a major summit of Asian and European leaders which starts on Monday.
A business-friendly version of the bill was approved by parliament on Thursday, after Thein Sein sent back an earlier draft to lawmakers amid concerns that it was too protectionist.
An earlier limit of 50 percent for a foreign investor's stake in a joint venture has been dropped, and the new version allows the investment ratio to be decided by the foreign and local partners, MPs said.
More detailed rules for each sector will be drawn up by the Myanmar Investment Commission.
One of the major complaints of businesses eager to enter the country formerly known as Burma has been the lack of a clear legal framework.
"I think it will attract investors who are interested to come to Myanmar," said Aung Kyi Nyunt, a lawmaker with Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy opposition party.
Thein Sein has vowed to put the economy at the centre of a new wave of reforms, following dramatic political changes since almost half a century of outright military rule ended last year.
"Job opportunities are rare in our country," the president said last month at his first domestic news conference since taking power 18 months ago.
"To get these opportunities we definitely need foreign investment," he said.
Myanmar is seen by many investors as the next regional frontier market as businesses eye its oil, gas and other natural resources and strategic location between China and India.
The country was once known as the "rice bowl of Asia" because of its agricultural riches. But economic mismanagement during nearly 50 years of junta rule left the country deeply impoverished.