Tuesday, 31 December 2013

Precast concrete factory to be built in Myanmar

YANGON—The Youth Force Group of Companies (Youth Force), which is owned by a Myanmar citizen, says it will build a precast concrete factory here for low-cost housing projects with the assistance of Yau Lee Holding, Ltd, a top Hong Kong-based company.

“Myanmar is now facing high demand for housing. A precast concrete factory will be aimed at building low-cost housing apartments, which are a basic need for the public right now. Although Youth Force has signed an agreement with Yau Lee Holding, Ltd to build such a factory, we still haven’t found a suitable site for its construction,” said Tin Tun, managing director of Youth Force.

Bilateral trade with Bangladesh needs a boost

Bilateral trade between Myanmar and Bangladesh in this fiscal year is the lowest compared to other neighbouring countries, according to the sources from Ministry of Commerce.

Myanmar earned more than US$3.4 billion from the border trade with China, India, Thailand and Bangladesh from April 1 to December 13.

China is the biggest trade partner with Myanmar followed by Thailand.

JICA, govt to finalise railway upgrade loan

Japan will loan Myanmar US$200 million of the $500 million required to upgrade the Yangon-Mandalay Railway early next year, a Japan International Cooperation Agency official said last week.

While JICA has not committed to financing the remaining $300 million, chief representative Tanaka Masahiko said it was the “first batch” of several payments for the upgrade, which will cut travel time in half from 15 hours.

MIC allows over 100 foreign investment businesses this year

Myanmar Investment Commission (MIC) has granted permission for more than 100 foreign investment businesses in this year, including beer and cigarette makers.

For the period of January to December 19, MIC said it granted permission for 118 foreign investment businesses and joint ventures to operate in the country.

End of the Drought

YANGON — Myanmar’s drought of SIM cards is nearly over. The tiny plastic chips have in recent years been limited in supply. Distribution has been only through lotteries, driving a lucrative black market where they are peddled for hundreds of dollars each.

Sometime in the middle of the 2014 rainy season, however, the country’s major cities, at least, can expect a flood of affordable SIM cards.

Making mobile services available across the country is a big task, but there has been no shortage of international firms keen to get involved in setting up decent telecommunications, a vital prerequisite to Myanmar’s development in other sectors.

Myanmar, EU to sign investment agreement

Myanmar will soon sign an investment protection agreement with the European Union to promote foreign investments, according to the Myanmar Investment Commission (MIC).

“The EU has begun to make investments in Myanmar. We have agreed with the EU on principle to sign an investment protection agreement. Soon, discussions will start. After signing the agreement, EU investments will flow into Myanmar. Currently, investments have come from France, Luxemburg and Switzerland,” said an official from the MIC.

Divisions emerge over health coverage scheme

Universal health coverage appears set to become a political issue in the 2015 election, with the government and the National League for Democracy in agreement on the need to introduce affordable coverage for all – but at odds on how and over what period to do it.

The World Bank, which is assisting the government with its plans, describes universal coverage as ensuring all people obtain the health services they need without suffering financial hardship when paying for them.

CPI has the lion’s share of Myanmar’s controversial Myitsone project

China Power Investment (CPI) owns most of the shares in Myanmar’s Myitsone dam project on the Ayeyawady River in Myitkyina, Kachin State, according to the project figures released on Thursday.

The Upstream Ayeyawady Confluence Basin Hydropower Co Ltd (ACHC), which released the project data, said CPI has 80 percent of the shares in the project which President Thein Sein suspended in 2011, while the Myanmar government’s Ministry of Electric Power owns 15 percent shares with no plan for further investment, while the local Asia World Company five percent with cash-down payment. The project is allowed to run for 50 years before the full ownership is transfer to the government, according to the project figures.

Lanka’s CECB explores Myanmar’s construction boom in 2014

Sri Lanka’s Central Engineering Consultancy Bureau (CECB), the country’s foremost engineering consultancy body, is guiding leading local construction companies to secure foreign construction contracts.

A fully fledged CECB international base office will be opened in Myanmar in the new year to undertake construction contracts and consultancy services with the aim of taking full advantage of the current construction boom in that country, veteran engineer Nihal Rupasinghe, Chairman, CECB revealed in an interview with the Business Times.

Best Western enters Myanmar

YANGON—Best Western International (BWI), the U.S.-based global hotel chain, has opened its first hotel in Myanmar, the Best Western Green Hill Hotel in Yangon, company sources say.

BWI becomes the first U.S. hotel company to establish a presence in Myanmar, following the recent political and economic reforms enacted by the Thein Sein administration that have drawn foreign investors’ interest.

The hotel is situated in the heart of Yangon, just 15 minutes’ drive from the Shwedagon Pagoda. It has 189 air-conditioned rooms featuring 32-inch flat-screen televisions with international satellite channels, bathrooms with bathtubs and showers, and complimentary Wi-Fi.

Myanmar to introduce travel insurance services to foreign visitors

Myanmar is planning to introduce travel insurance services among foreign visitors in view of dramatic increase in tourist arrivals, official media reported Sunday.

The number of application for travel insurance is still low in Myanmar, the New Light of Myanmar quoted a private insurance firm as saying.

Myanmar to build more industrial zones

The government is planning to build more industrial zones in the coming future as part of the strategy to contain the growing land prices, according to officials.

“The matter of higher land prices is very difficult to tackle. [The government] is currently planning to create more industrial zones in the future. Land prices go up and down according to the market’s supply and demand. Higher prices will go down when a wanted land plot is inexpensively available in the market. So it’s now considering to create more industrial zones. Some are now under preparations in Myawaddy, Hpa-an and Bago,” said an official from Myanmar Investment Commission (MIC).

Myanmar president calls for development of traditional medicine

Myanmar President U Thein Sein has called for the development of traditional medicine and pharmacy within the framework of related laws, official media reported Saturday.

U Thein Sein made the call in his message on the occasion of the 14th Myanmar Traditional Medicine Practitioners' conference held in Nay Pyi Taw on Friday.

The conference has been held annually since more than a decade ago.

Japan’s financial aid to be used for healing of Ayeyarwady mangroves

Myanmar will implement a four-year restoration project with Japanese aid worth (Yen 583 million) for mangrove forests in Ayeyarwady delta region starting from November of this year to the end of 2017.

The forest department under the Ministry of Environmental Conservation and Forestry will implement mangrove restoration plan for preventative against the natural disaster in delta region together with Japan International Corporation Agency-JICA.

New Light of Myanmar (31 Dec 2013 - Tuesday)

The Mirror Daily (31 Dec 2013 - Tuesday)

Myanma Alinn Daily (31 Dec 2013 - Tuesday)

Collect more revenues in order to spend more: PAJC told government

The government has got Ks 2500 billion from revenues collected during 2012-2013 financial year, but those are expected to increase during this fiscal year, according to Lower House’s Public Account Joint Committee.

The exact sum of the revenues collected during 2013-2014 financial year has yet to be made public.

“The revenues have increased during 2013-2014 financial year. Similarly, the government’s expenditures will be on the increase in the next financial year as the country will host related ASEAN’s meetings,” said Thurein Zaw, the chairman of the PAJC.

Myanmar allows intl GSM mobile phone coverage

Myanmar telecommunication authorities have allowed GSM and WCDMA mobile phone coverage from foreign countries, local media reported Friday.

GSM/WCDMA subscribers from 64 operators from 33 countries including ASEAN countries can get access to the communication services in Myanmar, said the 7-Day News.

Myanmar Posts and Telecommunications (MPT) and Orange Company of France signed the International Roaming Services Agreement on Dec. 20.

The 2nd New Year Celebration together with the world in “Myanmar Countdown 2014”

After the great success from last year of ‘Myanmar Countdown 2013’ with over 100,000 attendees, Myanmar Index Creative Village (MICV) still attempts to experience Myanmar people in celebrating together with other countries around the world by providing the 2nd New Year countdown in Myanmar. There will be 3 zones for the 3 highlight activities; Free concert, Snow Town, and finally, food and beverage and shopping zone.

Monday, 30 December 2013

Mining industry operated without MIC’s permission

YANGON—Mining operations, including exploration for jade and gold, have been carried out in Myanmar without permission from the Myanmar Investment Commission (MIC), a Commission source says.

The MIC source adds that the mining exploration was now being conducted with permission under the country’s mining laws.

Visa-free trips to Myanmar begin January 4

MANILA, Philippines – Travelers, mark the date. Filipinos can visit Myanmar without a visa starting Jan 4, 2014, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) announced 3 weeks after the former military junta granted Filipinos the visa-free privilege.

Ordinary passport holders from the Philippines can stay in Myanmar without a visa for 14 days, the DFA said in a statement Friday, December 27.

Myanmar prepares for Miss Universe 2014

Candidates for the Miss Universe Myanmar 2014 pageant will be trained systematically, according to Soe Yu Wai from the Miss Universe Myanmar Organization.

The organization will invite potential candidates for the beauty pageant from different regions and states, then will select the Miss Universe Myanmar 2014 winner.

As Car Market Expands, Japanese Models Rule

YANGON — Like most residents of Myanmar’s largest city, U Myint Maung never imagined that he would one day be able to buy a car of his own. Now, however, the 63-year-old retired government official is the proud owner of a used Toyota Belta—a vehicle that not so long ago would have been far beyond his means.

Until very recently, Myanmar was probably one of the most expensive countries in the world to purchase a car. Under the former military regime, import restrictions sent prices sky high, making it impossible for all but the well-connected to buy high-end vehicles or even relatively new used models.

Accor to open six new hotels in Myanmar

YANGON—Accor, one of the leading international hotel operators in Asia-Pacific, will open six new hotels in Yangon over the next three years, according to its chairman and chief executive officer Sebastien Bazin.

“We believe Accor has a role to play as a responsible investor in Myanmar, providing employment opportunities, building capacity and giving back to the community,” said Bazin.

Myanmar gets over 53 mln USD in foreign investment in September

YANGON, Dec. 27 (Xinhua) -- Contracted foreign investment in Myanmar amounted to 53.45 million U.S. dollars in September, bringing the total to over 44.21 billion dollars as of the end of the month since 1988, according to latest figures from the Central Statistical Organization.

Of the investment in September, which came from nine countries and regions, 37.6 million dollars were injected into the manufacturing sector, 6.61 million dollars went to the agriculture sector, 5.2 million dollars to tourism, and 4.04 million dollars to mining.

Panasonic to distribute solar lanterns in Myanmar

YANGON—Panasonic will distribute its new solar lantern in Myanmar starting in January.

Distribution of the lanterns is aimed at providing off-grid energy solutions to areas with limited electricity in Southeast Asian countries. They will be sold at a price of around Ks 50,000 in supermarkets and grocery shops across Myanmar.

Myanmar Payment Union to Start Accepting JCB Cards in Myanmar

Tokyo and Yangon, Dec 27, 2013 (Menafn - JCN Newswire via COMTEX) --JCB International Co., Ltd. ("JCBI"), the international operations subsidiary of JCB, and Myanmar Payment Union ("MPU"), the national payment network of the Republic of the Union of Myanmar ("Myanmar") are pleased to announce that MPU and its member banks have started JCB merchant acquiring operations in Myanmar. With this launch, JCB cards will be accepted at over 2,000 MPU merchants throughout Myanmar starting December 2013.

Cruise ships’ visits to Yangon on ten-year record high

Two international cruise ships carrying hundreds of tourists arrived at Myanmar International Terminal Thilawa (MITT) and Bo Aung Kyaw Port in Yangon on Friday, according to the Myanmar Port Authority (MPA).

“The MS. AZARAMA JOURNEY Cruise was berthed at the MITT, with 700 tourists on board on December 27. The MS. VOYAGER Cruise that carried 500 tourists was berthed at Bo Aung Kyaw Port,” said an official from the MPA.

Myanmar Exempts Goods Exported To Asean From Custom Duties

YANGON, Dec 27 (Bernama) -- Myanmar has exempted from custom duties goods meeting origin criteria that are exported to member countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean), Xinhua news agency reported, citing state media report Friday.

"If the goods, included in the product specific rule list, meet the origin criteria of receptive items while exporting to Asean member countries, the goods will be given exemption from custom duties as the products of origin countries," said the New Light of Myanmar.

ADB loans US$ 60m to help boost power in Myanmar

YANGON—The Asian Development Bank (ADB) has provided a US$ 60 million (Ks 59.28 billion) loan to Myanmar to help the country improve its electricity network in four regions.

The ADB’s first project loan since re-engaging with Myanmar, the infusion is aimed at helping to rehabilitate sections of the country’s power distribution network. Some 480,000 households in Yangon, Mandalay, Sagaing, and Magway regions will have better access to a more reliable supply of electricity to support their daily activities, according to a bank official.

Myanmar prepares for ASEAN economic integration

YANGON, Myanmar -- Of all the uphill battles Myanmar expects to face in the near future, surely one of the steepest will be meeting expectations to increase its gross domestic product (GDP) by the time the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) is launched in 2015.

The government is working hard to establish the necessary fundamentals and framework to achieve this goal. As one of the least developed countries in the region, however, Myanmar continues to be plagued by disunity and lack of cooperation between government ministries and public and private sectors.

Former MOFA office reopened as business centre

YANGON—The former office of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Pyay Road was reopened on Wednesday as a business centre for embassies and companies, according to the Youth Force Hotel Co, which signed the contract with the government to operate the project.

The colonial-era building was renovated without changing its architecture at a cost of Ks 5 billion (US$ 5.07 million), and it has been transformed into the June XI Business Centre, which is comprised of 218 rooms.

New Light of Myanmar (30 Dec 2013 - Monday)

The Mirror Daily (30 Dec 2013 - Monday)

Myanma Alinn Daily (30 Dec 2013 - Monday)

New Light of Myanmar (29 Dec 2013 - Sunday)

The Mirror Daily (29 Dec 2013 - Sunday)

Myanma Alinn Daily (29 Dec 2013 - Sunday)

New Light of Myanmar (28 Dec 2013 - Saturday)

The Mirror Daily (28 Dec 2013 - Saturday)

Myanma Alinn Daily (28 Dec 2013 - Saturday)

New Light of Myanmar (27 Dec 2013 - Friday)

The Mirror Daily (27 Dec 2013 - Friday)

Myanma Alinn Daily (27 Dec 2013 - Friday)

Good Timing Forging links for investment

Nyan Lynn Aung is a former Wall Street banker who returned to his native Yangon in March after 13 years abroad. He is the director of Fine 9, an advisory firm that connects foreign and domestic investors in such sectors as oil and gas, mining, construction, garments and agriculture. He spoke to Mizzima Business Weekly about why the time is ripe for doing business in Myanmar.

Myanmar close to reaching tourist target for 2013-14

The number of foreign tourists who have visited Myanmar this fiscal year has reached 1.9 million, closing in on the country’s target of two million for 2013-14, according to the Ministry of Hotels and Tourism.

With 1.9 million foreign tourists entering the country through several gateways by December 25, the two-million mark is quite possible as four months still remain before the fiscal year’s end, said Tint Tun Aung, a director from the ministry.

Best Western debuts in Myanmar

Best Western International (BWI), a global hotel chain, has opened its first hotel in Myanmar, the Best Western Green Hill Hotel, Yangon.

The contemporary, 189-room midscale hotel is located in the heart of Myanmar’s largest city, with views of the glittering spires of the Shwedagon Pagoda.

“I am absolutely delighted to welcome the Best Western Green Hill Hotel into our fast-expanding portfolio of hotels in Asia,” said Glenn de Souza, BWI’s vice president of International Operations for Asia and the Middle East.

1,300cc-engine cars still in high demand despite drop in 1,500cc price, dealers say

Myanmar’s Vehicle Import Supervisory Central Committee recently announced that new revaluation rates on cost, insurance and freight (CIF) for imported cars will take effect on January 1.

Since these rates provide the basis for tax calculation of imported vehicles, changes in such rates can ultimately affect motor prices. According to the announcement, the CIF revaluation rates for cars with 1,300cc engines, which are mostly bought for recreational use, will remain the same.

Thursday, 26 December 2013

Private dailies’ advertising revenues flourish in Myanmar

One new industry that’s emerging from the recent reforms is the private media business. A slew of new publications are hitting the streets, in a country that until recently banned the private press.

The unmistakable sound of the printing press, rolling out the day’s news, in April, Myanmar’s government changed a half-century’s old law restricting daily publications to the government. More than 30 private firms applied for licenses and 9 are printing today.

But getting loyal readership, he admits, is a big challenge.

D.C.’s renowned Burma restaurant, a Chinatown gem, is serving its final meals

The princess never cooked.

Servants prepared the meals at the big house in Kokang, the provincial region of Burma that her family ruled for centuries. Maids took care of that chore during her husband’s stints as a high-ranking Burmese diplomat in Britain, India and the United States.

So friends of the princess —“sao,” in Burmese — could be forgiven for their reaction to her news that anxious winter of 1989 as her country heaved with turmoil and its ruling military junta rebranded it Myanmar. The sao and her husband would be opening a restaurant in Washington’s Chinatown. On New Year’s Day, 1990.

India-Myanmar transport project to complete by mid 2014

YANGON: The Kaladan multi-purpose transportation project, jointly implemented by Myanmar and India, is expected to be completed by mid 2014, media reports said Thursday.

According to the contractor Essar Company, the first of the three-phase project has been completed by 70 per cent, reported Xinhua.

The first phase includes construction of Sittway Deep Seaport and Paletwa Jetty, dredging the Kaladan waterway and construction of six vessels.

Myanmar locals prefer traditional goods to foreign alternatives

It’s been more than two years since Myanmar began to open its economy, a move that ushered in a slew of foreign companies trying to break in to this once relatively closed market. But some brands are finding resistance to their products, with a local preference for local solutions.

44-year old Maaye Than grinds thanakha root, adding water, and makes a paste which she and many Myanmar women put of their skin. Thanakha is a traditional cosmetic that also blocks the sun, and she says she prefers it to more modern cosmetics.

From Kyaiktiyo to the “Rope Wizard” at Kyaukhtatkyi Pagoda

While Kyaiktiyo Pagoda, or the Golden Rock, is always packed with pilgrims and tourists, the pagoda’s surrounding hills including Crow’s Mouth Cave, Hunter Hill, Yathae Hill, Kyaukhtatkyi Pagoda and the waterfall, are no less crowded with visitors.

Located two and a half miles north of Kyaiktiyo Hill, Kyaukhtatkyi Pagoda has received a lot of attention from visitors due to the ‘Rope Wizard’, who risks his life by ‘flying’ 60 feet above the ground from a cane rope to gild the pagoda with gold leaves on behalf of the pilgrims.

Foreign businessmen go homeless in Rangoon

The city of Rangoon is facing a shortage of suitable housing as more and more foreign investors flock to the country to do business.

In the two years since Burma’s political transition, a slew of foreign businesses have rushed into the country, but many are finding it difficult to find accommodation.

Housing prices have increased in the city, and some of the most expensive prices on the city’s rental property market are three times as much as that of Bangkok and Hanoi, and occasionally higher than even Singapore.

Rehearsal over, Myanmar must now step onto global stage

Tough times ahead for the 2014 leader of Asean as the region prepares for economic integration and seeks to appease rival world powers

Myanmar dropped the curtain on the 27th South East Asian Games on Sunday and claimed victory, whatever the medals table said. The country failed to overhaul Thailand as overall winners, but its symbolic triumph as host was far more important. Handed to the former pariah state as a reward for ongoing reforms, the Games presented a crucial test of Myanmar's move toward becoming an open society and its integration into the international community.

ASEAN: Myanmar Gov’t To Support Private Sector Business Growth

The International Finance Corporation (IFC) has signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with Myanmar’s Ministry of National Planning and Economic Development to support its efforts to improve the country’s investment policy and regulation framework.

“This will make it easier to do business in Myanmar and help stimulate domestic private sector growth and attract sustainable foreign investment,” the IFC said in a statement yesterday.

Old power cables in Yangon to be replaced next year - YESB

YANGON—The Yangon Electrical Supply Board is planning to replace old power cables currently used in the city with new ones in the 2014-15 fiscal year, the YESB’s deputy chief engineer, Ye Myint Htay, said yesterday.

“Most cables installed in Yangon are more than 30 years old and need replacement. We expect to replace them soon,” he said.

For Burma’s Future Business Leaders, an MBA Is Essential

RANGOON — Those hoping to be the managers of Burma’s brave new economy are signing up to a raft of new private courses offering an MBA, or Master of Business Administration, according to educators and students.

In the West, the MBA and similar post-graduate programs have long been the go-to qualifications for would-be high fliers. But as Burma’s government undertakes economic and political reforms to open the country up to foreign investment, managers still lack formal qualification.

Construction of ships for Kalatan River project nearly completed

YANGON—The construction of two multi-purpose ships for the Kalatan River project, which are being built in Dagon Seikkan Dockyard, will be completed in May, according to the dockyard’s deputy superintending engineer.

“The construction of ships is nearly complete now. The whole project will be finished in May of coming year,” said Myat Thu.

Myanmar Leads The World In Donations To Charity

Nearly 85 percent of Myanmar’s population actively donate to charities, according to a study by the Charities Aids Foundation this month, representing the highest participation rate in the world out of 135 countries surveyed.

The study, as part of the World Giving Index, noted that Myanmar had an “extraordinarily high incidence of donating money” – about 9 percent higher than the next closest country; while the nation also came in second overall in the world across three categories – donating money to charities, helping a stranger and volunteering time for charitable activities.

Exim Bank of Korea to enter Myanmar

YANGON—Myanmar has allowed the Export-Import Bank of Korea to open a representative office in Yangon, according to the Directorate of Investment and Company Administration.

The bank registered at the DICA on December 18 to open its office.

Established in 1976, the bank has supported South Korea’s export-led economy by providing loans, financing mega-projects, and facilitating economic cooperation with other countries.

New Light of Myanmar (26 Dec 2013 - Thursday)

The Mirror Daily (26 Dec 2013 - Thursday)

Myanma Alinn Daily (26 Dec 2013 - Thursday)

New Light of Myanmar (25 Dec 2013 - Wednesday)

The Mirror Daily (25 Dec 2013 - Wednesday)

Myanma Alinn Daily (25 Dec 2013 - Wednesday)

ADB, Japan to provide US $10 million for healthcare services in Myanmar

YANGON—The Asian Development Bank (ADB) will provide a strategic link between the Myanmar government and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) currently providing HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment services, according to a bank official.

“As Myanmar continues implementing social and political reforms, it must protect its people from inadvertent exposure to communicable diseases like HIV, tuberculosis, malaria,” said Gerard Servais, a health specialist in ADB’s Southeast Asia Department.

Burma Expects 3 Million Visitors in 2014

Burma is expecting visitor numbers surge to 3 million in 2014, a senior government official told the 7 Day Daily newspaper, according to Reuters. Burma is the chairman of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) in the year, and will host major summits with regional and world leaders in May and November. Although tourist numbers have been rising in recent years, the official’s prediction would represent a huge growth from about 1.8 million visitors that the government expected for 2013. The 1 million visitors in 2012 was a record for Burma, and the country’s hotel and tourism sectors are already struggling to meet demand.

source: The Irrawaddy

Wednesday, 25 December 2013

Prolonging IP law will hurt business, experts say

The government will need to exercise haste in improving outdated intellectual property (IP) laws and developing a framework for enforcing those laws if the country wishes to not drive away possible investors uncertain of losing their products to the black market, experts warn.

Current intellectual property law, which dateS back to 1914 with the enactment of the Myanmar Copyright Act, do not recognise copyright from other countries nor does it provide for registering copyright from foreign countries within Myanmar.

Lawyers protest Theinbyu development, loss of parks

A lawyers’ group is protesting a city decision to allow the construction of a high-rise building on what used to be a public park, saying the city needs its green space. The Lawyers’ Network says it will raise the matter with the Yangon Region Hluttaw and has suggested municipal authorities have broken their own planning laws.

“Yangon City Development Committee is leasing out public parks and playgrounds for construction projects. The city needs parks and playgrounds as well as new buildings for its development. We object to this decision,” U Aye Min, a member of Lawyers’ Network who is leading the objection, told The Myanmar Times on December 19.

Total likely to explore new blocks in Myanmar: exec

French energy giant Total would consider developing new offshore blocks as economic reform continues to take hold in the country, an executive from the firm said.

Total is currently awaiting the results of its bid for off-shore blocks submitted in two proposals that would see exploration of deep-water blocks.

The results for the widely anticipated tender for 30 blocks, which includes several international firms, are expected early next year.

Trade volumes likely to fall short of $25b goal

But bilateral trade is growing across the board as new trade partners around the globe are taking more interest in doing business with Myanmar

Myanmar has only managed to meet 63 percent of its annual bilateral trade target of US$25 billion through the first months of the 2013-14 fiscal year, drawing doubts for the first time whether the figure can be met, officials said.

Affluent Myanmar to double by 2020, research finds

Population remains optimistic that they will have a better future even though financial troubles remain

Myanmar's middle and affluent classes are set to nearly double in size to about 15 percent of the population by 2020 if it can continue on the path of economic reform, according to a report released last week by US-based consultancy firm the Boston Consulting Group (BCG).

On the use of tax stamps in Myanmar - The Fine Print, Legal & Tax Insight

Invented in 17th-century Europe, the duty stamp is alive and well in Myanmar. Though the tax has been abolished in many countries, Myanmar’s 1899 Stamp Act is still in force, and covers nearly all business dealings.Stamp duty arises if a business instrument is signed or received here, or relates to property or transactions located in the country.

Local banks want partners in order to build capacity

With some foreign banks expected to begin operating in 2014, bankers are increasingly looking to the government and finance organisations to get them up to speed

Despite continued efforts on the part of local banks to upgrade services ahead of the anticipated inclusion of foreign competition, bankers claim that they will require outside help in order to increase capacity building and training that would keep them competitive.

Standard Chartered Bank holds first anti-money laundering workshop in Myanmar

YANGON—The UK’s Standard Chartered Bank confirmed today that it recently held the first in a series of joint workshops aimed at helping Myanmar tackle the global issue of money laundering and enhance the country’s efforts to re-integrate with the global financial system.

Prudential, a UK-based financial services company, co-organised the workshop in partnership with the Central Bank of Myanmar (CBM).

ADB to loan $60m to improve energy sector

Bank says that poor infrastructure is resulting in a high level of electricity losses, while upgrades are necessary

Nearly one-fifth of electrical power is lost before it reaches consumers because of ageing infrastructure, said the Asian Development Bank (ADB), which announced last week it will lend Myanmar US$60million to improve the electricity distribution system in Yangon, Mandalay, Sagaing and Magway regions.

UK invites Myanmar’s cooperation in fighting illegal wildlife trade

YANGON—The UK government has invited the Myanmar government to attend an international conference on the illegal wildlife trade to be held in London in February.

“The UK hopes that H.E. President Thein Sein’s government will be represented in London,” the British Embassy said today.

Office space alternatives surge in face of soaring rental market

Local businesses have begun offering shared office suites to deal with the shortage of supply in Yangon

Office space rental prices have surged as high as 1000 percent in some Yangon townships, fuelling demand for office space alternatives in the commercial capital.

Tuesday, 24 December 2013

Gov’t to provide electricity for 10,000 villages next year

YANGON—The Myanmar government is planning to provide electricity next year for 10,000 villages that have yet to access electricity, said Myint Oo, deputy director-general at the Ministry of Livestock, Fisheries and Rural Development.

Currently, only 20,000 of the 64,000 villages in Myanmar have access to electricity.
“We didn’t set a deadline to give electricity to all the villages. Next year, we will work to provide electricity for 10,000 villages. In 2015, we will provide electricity to another 10,000 villages. More than 40,000 villages still do not have electricity access,” said Myint Oo.

Booze prices spike as stocks near depletion

A dwindling supply of imported alcohol in Yangon has forced what sellers remain to increase the price of booze as much as 50 percent, while the country’s largest shops continue to remain free of quality alcohol ahead of the holiday peak season.

Over the past two months, a government taskforce has confiscated tens of thousands of bottles of alcohol from the country’s largest distributors in several raids, while company officials could face criminal charges for allegedly importing alcohol without a licence.

TechCamp aims to help civil society organisations’ challenges

YANGON—A two-day technology camp (TechCamp) to be held in Yangon next month (January 13-14) will gather technology experts and civil society organizations (CSOs) to brainstorm on how technology can be used to address real world challenges, according to the US Embassy.

“The goal is to increase the digital literacy of CSOs and connect CSOs to local, regional and international technology communities,” said an Embassy official.

Yoma and Somitomo partner up

Yoma Strategic Holdings has entered into a proposed joint venture with Japan’s Sumitomo Corporation to distribute Hino trucks in Myanmar.

Hino, a Toyota group company, manufactures medium- and heavy-duty trucks and buses, and is a market-leader in Japan.

Andrew Rickards, Yoma Strategic’s chief executive, said the proposed joint venture would benefit both the logistics and tourism sectors.

Twenty roads added to Yangon's no-parking zone

YANGON-The traffic police have extended twenty more roads to the city's no-parking zone, totaling to 57 restricted roads in Yangon Region, an official from Traffic Police Force said.

Although a total of 1,175 vehicles have been towed for parking on restricted roads since November 11, the number of recklessly parked vehicles has not lessened.

Yangon office for Savills

Hong Kong-based Savills real estate firm opened an office in Yangon on December 16 to join in the continuing boom in land and property prices here.

Richard Emerson, country manager of Savills Myanmar, said, “Our team in Yangon has already taken instructions across a variety of brokerage disciplines, including office and retail leasing, development feasibilities, market research, valuations and investment
brokerage.”

Myanmar to upgrade Yangon-Mandalay railway next year

Myanmar will launch upgrading process of Yangon-Mandalay railway next year using a loan of US$ 500 million agreed to take out from Japan, according to Ministry of Rail Transportation.

A survey is said to be under way starting from this October about environmental and social impact, which is likely to come out of the upgrading project.

Dealers put the brakes on car imports

An expected drop in import costs set for January has left thousands of imported vehicles sitting in containers at Yangon Port as dealers fear that bringing them into the market now could result in losses.

Officials said that sellers are expected to impose a reduction in transportation and insurance costs to dealers termed Cost, Insurance and Freight (CIF) charges. Dealers, in expecting a better rate for imported cars next month, have opted for the time being to hold out on making purchases.

Oxymat tapping into Myanmar market

Oxymat is tapping into the ‘huge potential market’ in the healthcare sector in South East Asia with a new oxygen supply contract in Myanmar.

The company secured a deal to supply oxygen plants with cylinder filling stations to four hospitals in Myanmar in November (2013) – becoming the first to install such a quantity of oxygen plants and restart business in the long-isolated country.

Insein and Shwe Pyi Thar offer a cheaper alternative to downtown

The residential property market in outlying Yangon townships Insein and Shwe Pyithar is often overlooked but offers more spacious and affordable housing than downtown condos, real estate experts said.

Frequently shunned by renters wanting to be closer to the hectic downtown grid, the northern townships of Insein and Shwe Pyithar boast landed property available for purchase or rent from as low as K500,000 a month.

Burma to Review Booze Import Policy: Ministry

RANGOON — Burma has started an official review of its alcohol import law, considering whether to maintain heavy restrictions on the sale of foreign booze following a controversial crackdown on retail shops found to be selling it illegally.

The Ministry of Commerce has met with legal experts and industry professionals—including local alcohol manufacturers, duty free shop owners, hotel managers and tax collectors—to discuss possible changes to the law, and to assess how the crackdown has affected business.

ADB urges more investment in Mandalay water supply system

The Asian Development Bank has urged Mandalay municipal authorities to focus their attention on supplying running water to all of the city’s households, following a survey of 600 homes in October and November.

The survey of economic and social conditions was conducted as part of its new cooperation with Mandalay City Development Committee, which is aiming to turn Mandalay into a “green”, or environmentally friendly, city.

Challenges Seen Ahead for Burma’s Public Companies

RANGOON — With about 100 public companies already formed in Burma on the advice of the government, industry insiders say most are a long way off being ready for the scrutiny of public trading that will come with the arrival of a new stock exchange.

With a previous effort to set up a stock exchange in the commercial capital of Rangoon a flop, a Japanese-backed project is hoping to have new bourse up and running in 2015.

Economist calls for caution on pace of banking reforms

Prominent economist U Myint has argued that Myanmar should take more time to weigh up the potential consequences before allowing “big” foreign banks, institutional investors and finance firms into Myanmar.

In a presentation to the National Defense University earlier this month, U Myint, an economic adviser to President U Thein Sein, told the audience that the Central Bank of Myanmar was still too weak to properly supervise a liberalised financial sector.

New Light of Myanmar (24 Dec 2013 - Tuesday)

The Mirror Daily (24 Dec 2013 - Tuesday)

Myanma Alinn Daily (24 Dec 2013 - Tuesday)

Nagoya University joins debate on reform of education

Education reforms in Myanmar will benefit from the experience of Japan. Experts from Nagoya University have been discussing their national experience with their Myanmar counterparts.

On December 17, representatives of the Yangon Institute of Education and Nagoya University discussed educational policy at the Diamond Jubilee Hall of Yangon University.

Monday, 23 December 2013

Secretive firms hit with US sanctions

There is no company signboard. The door is locked and has no bell. The small white, two-storey house at the rear of the lot looks like it has been abandoned for years.

Yet, according to the United States Treasury, this building on Kabar Aye Pagoda Road in Yangon’s Mayangone township is home to Soe Min Htike Company, one of three private firms sanctioned last week for their alleged involvement in weapons deals between Myanmar and North Korea.

Myanmar to open over 800 private gas stations

The Myanmar authorities have granted green light to the opening of 801 private fuel filling stations in the country this year, local media reported Sunday.

Gov’t, IFC ink deal to improve Myanmar’s investment policy

YANGON—The International Finance Corporation (IFC) has signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Myanmar’s Ministry of National Planning and Economic Development to support its efforts to improve the country’s investment policy and regulation framework.

“This will make it easier to do business in Myanmar and help stimulate domestic private sector growth and attract sustainable foreign investment,” the IFC said in a statement yesterday.

Middle class in Vietnam, Myanmar double

The middle and affluent class will double in size in Vietnam and Myanmar between now and 2020, according to the Boston Consulting Group.

Consumers in these two countries are also among the most optimistic in the world - more optimistic than even their counterparts in China, India, Indonesia and other fast-growing emerging markets. By 2020, there will be more than 30 million middle and affluent consumers in Vietnam and about 10 million in Myanmar.

Ooredoo to launch 3G services in Myanmar next year

YANGON—Ooredoo Myanmar will introduce 3G mobile services nationwide in 2014, according to company sources.

To achieve this, the operator has selected Nokia Solutions and Networks as the key supplier for its radio and core equipment and services. Ooredoo’s subscribers in Myanmar will soon have access to advanced mobile broadband services.

TradingPub Helping to Create 25 Businesses in Myanmar Through Partnership With Opportunities Now

MOBILE, Ala., Dec. 20, 2013 /PRNewswire/ -- TradingPub has announced a new campaign to help create 25 Businesses in Myanmar through a new partnership that it has established with Opportunities Now, an organization that has the goal of helping out the youth in the Asian nation of Myanmar through business education.

(Logo: http://photos.prnewswire.com/prnh/20131220/NE35882LOGO)

Created by YouthHOPE, a branch of the U.S.-based New Mission Systems International, Opportunities Now provides micro loans in the troubled Asian nation. NMSI is a non-profit organization devoted to developing younger individuals.

Myanmar Carlsberg company prepares to start operation

BAGO - Myanmar Carlsberg company is preparing to invest in Bago industrial zone, sources say.

Myanmar Carlsberg’s Finance and Business Planning Director Mr. Dheeraj Mishra met with Director General of Directorate of Investment and Companies Administration (DICA) Aung Naing Oo on December 18 to discuss about the required rules and regulations to make investment.

Myanmar opens its doors to send maids to Hong Kong

Hong Kong agency becomes the first in world to strike an arrangement with government of former pariah state to hire its domestic helpers

Myanmar has taken another step towards opening up to the world by allowing a Hong Kong agency to recruit its people to work as domestic helpers in the city.

The Golden Mind Employment Agency became the world's first agency to be given permission to recruit domestic workers in the former pariah state.

ADB, Japan to provide US $12 million for poverty reduction in Myanmar

YANGON—The Asian Development Bank (ADB) and Japan are extending grant assistance of US $12 million (Ks 11.8 billion) for a community-driven project that will free some of Myanmar’s poorest rural communities from a vicious cycle of low-income poverty and minimal opportunities, according to a bank official.

“This investment in rural infrastructure and livelihoods services will have a significant multiplier effect on the income and quality of life in these communities,” Pavit Ramachandran, a senior environment specialist in the bank’s Southeast Asia Department, said late this week.

Myanmar's beaming welcome

After decades of self-isolation, this secret country opens up, writes Tim Roxborogh.

Zipping around on a wooden long-tail boat on Inle Lake, one of Asia's prettiest lakes, it seemed a shame we were about to smash into some dear conical-hat-wearing ladies, undoubtedly sinking their boat.

Only the high-speed collision wasn't accidental and it turns out these narrow boats (which can carry half a dozen westerners single file, probably 40-plus locals) are pretty adept at stopping quickly and sidling up to each other without capsizing.

Border trade with China increases three-fold

Myanmar’s border trade with China has increased three-fold in this fiscal year, reaching nearly US$ 3 billion as of December 13, according to the Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs.

The total trade figure hit US$2.88 billion between April 1 and December 13, in which export to China accounted for US$1.94 billion while import made up US$940 million. In the same period last year, the total trade was just US$879 million.

Nokia to supply Ooredoo in Myanmar

Telecom service provider Ooredoo Myanmar has selected Nokia Solutions and Networks (NSN) to supply core and radio infrastructure for its planned 3G network in the country in a two-year deal. NSN did not talk about the size and scope of the 3G contract.

NSN claims its platforms offer high-capacity and are flexible to manage increasing traffic growth. Ooredoo Myanmar looking at launching 3G in 2014.

Foreign investment increases in hotel industry

Companies from EU, Thailand and Singapore are planning to make investment in Myanmar hotel industry, according to Director General Aung Zaw Win from Ministry of Hotel and Tourism.

The negotiations are already discussed but the plans have been delayed because they are studying the current situations.

India, China, Bangladesh and Myanmar to boost cooperation

BEIJING: An inter-governmental mechanism has been established by India, China, Bangladesh and Myanmar to help boost economic cooperation, the Chinese Foreign Ministry said today.

The establishment of the system was the outcome of a two-day meeting of the Bangladesh-China-India-Myanmar (BCIM) Economic Corridor working group, which ended yesterday in Kunming, capital of the southwestern Yunnan Province.

Minister denies president giving car permits to ethnic armed groups

A presidential office minister yesterday said it was not the president who gave the car import permits to ethnic armed groups, adding that he (the minister) gave them on behalf of the government.

He also argued that the things the armed groups received were only vehicle registrations, not car permits.

IFC agrees to help Myanmar improve investment policy

The International Finance Corporation, a member of the World Bank Group, has signed a memorandum of understanding with Myanmar's Ministry of National Planning and Economic Development to support the IFC's efforts to improve the country's investment policy and regulation framework.

This will make it easier to do business in Myanmar and help stimulate domestic private-sector growth and attract sustainable foreign investment, the IFC says.

New Light of Myanmar (23 Dec 2013 - Monday)

The Mirror Daily (23 Dec 2013 - Monday)

Myanma Alinn Daily (23 Dec 2013 - Monday)

New Light of Myanmar (22 Dec 2013 - Sunday)

The Mirror Daily (22 Dec 2013 - Sunday)

Myanma Alinn Daily (22 Dec 2013 - Sunday)

New Light of Myanmar (21 Dec 2013 - Saturday)

The Mirror Daily (21 Dec 2013 - Saturday)

Myanma Alinn Daily (21 Dec 2013 - Saturday)

Myanmar , U.S. universities to cooperate in education

YANGON, Dec. 20 (Xinhua) -- Universities of Myanmar and the United States are seeking cooperation in the field of education and a memorandum of understanding between the Yangon University and the Johns Hopkins University is expected to be signed soon, state media reported Friday.

Discussions have been made between Myanmar's Acting Education Minister Myo Myint and visiting Director of the Asian Studies Program at the Johns Hopkins University of the U.S. with regard to the cooperation.

Friday, 20 December 2013

Labour attachés assigned to Singapore and Kuwait

NAY PYI TAW—Myanmar is planning to appoint labour attachés in Singapore and Kuwait, Minister for Labour, Employment and Social Warfare Aye Myint said on Wednesday, at a ceremony in the nation’s capital marking International Migrant Workers Day.

Labour attachés are already assigned to Thailand, South Korea and Malaysia, where Myanmar migrant workers are actively struggling to protect their labour rights.

YSH, Sumitomo to distribute Hino brand vehicles in Myanmar

YANGON—Singapore-listed Yoma Strategic Holdings (YSH) and Japan’s Sumitomo Corporation have entered into a proposed joint venture to distribute and service Hino brand trucks and buses in Myanmar.

The joint venture, subject to approval by relevant authorities, is expected to be 60-percent owned by Sumitomo Corporation, 20-percent by Elite Matrix, a wholly-owned subsidiary of YSH, and 20-percent by First Myanmar Investment (FMI), a subsidiary of Serge Pun & Associates (Myanmar) (SPA).

MPT stalls on partnership announcement

A Myanmar Posts and Telecommunications official has confirmed that the announcement of a foreign partner for the state-owned telecoms enterprise has been delayed but offered no explanation or an alternative date.

As The Myanmar Times reported last week, the three consortiums in the running for the partnership had been told the announcement would be made on December 18.

MPT managing director U Aung Maw confirmed the delay on December 19 but said he had been instructed not to speak to the media on the matter and would not comment further.

Ooredoo to Launch 3G Services in Myanmar

Ooredoo Myanmar will introduce 3G mobile services nationwide in 2014. To achieve this, the operator has selected Nokia Solutions and Networks as the key supplier for its radio and core equipment and services. Ooredoo’s subscribers in Myanmar will soon have access to advanced mobile broadband services.

“This initiative underlines our commitment to deliver world-class communications services to our customers in Myanmar, who will soon enjoy a great customer experience with our network,” said Ross Cormack, Chief Executive Officer at Ooredoo Myanmar. “We are confident of NSN’s capabilities to help deliver our vision of becoming the service provider-of-choice across Myanmar.”

Uneven development stifling Myanmar

Anyone arriving today at Mingaladon Airport and driving toward the center of Yangon would find it hard to imagine that just a few years ago Myanmar was an isolated country - poor, underdeveloped and labeled by the US as an "outpost of tyranny."

At the start of the 21st century there were few cars on the roads. Taxis at that time used to be over a decade old, often with sagging seats and doors that did not shut properly. As things started to change around 2005, there were more cars and the first few mobile phones had made an appearance.

Bus company to launch Yangon-Bangkok one day trip

YANGON - Yangon Air Bus-Taxi Company is planning to launch a Yangon to Bangkok overland day trip via the Myawaddy border crossing, according to company chairman.

The program will start in the new year and will take approximately 12 hours.

"We are going to launch Yangon-Bangkok in one day trip. The fare is Ks 30,000 (US$30) for a local visitor and US$ 40 for a foreigner," said Zon Maung Maung, Chairman of Yangon Air Bus-Taxi Company.

New Light of Myanmar (20 Dec 2013 - Friday)

The Mirror Daily (20 Dec 2013 - Friday)

Myanma Alinn Daily (20 Dec 2013 - Friday)

Thursday, 19 December 2013

Quirky yet humble Myanmar will be remembered

THE SEA Games is winding down to a close and to be honest, everyone, I think, is just waiting for everything to end so that they can fly back home.

My initial thoughts when I was assigned together with my colleagues to cover the SEA Games was that I would get to see pagodas and temples in Naypitaw.

This was the message given by Lonely Planet of Myanmar.

Hotels in Myanmar

TO APPRECIATE the impact of the industrial hotel, fly an hour north-west of Bangkok to the industry’s new frontier—Myanmar. On the roof of the Asia Plaza, a decrepit Soviet-style hotel, a modern day plongeur in a singlet bemoans his fate. His wage of $50 a month “is not enough to feed my family”, he laments. A pal says the only worse job he has had was in a karaoke-and-sex club run for the pleasure of army officers during the years of brutal military dictatorship.

Myanmar, Cambodia agree on mutual visa exemption for ordinary passport holders

YANGON, Dec. 18 -- Myanmar and Cambodia have agreed on mutual visa exemption forholders of ordinary passports, state media reported Wednesday.

The agreement on the move was signed by Myanmar Deputy Foreign Minister U Tin OoLwin and Cambodian Ambassador to Myanmar Sieng Burvuthin Nay Pyi Taw.

Myanmar company receives shipment of stones from China

When the Millionaire Engineering and Industrial Company ordered 20 tonnes of micro plastic pellets, it did not expect to find stones instead.

The company signed a sales contract on November 20 with Chinese company Qingdao Jinding Metal Import and Export Ltd. for the pellets. The merchandise was shipped by Wanhai Shipping Company and arrived at Htee Tan wharf on December 9.

After Arrest in Govt Crackdown, Retailer Points to Alcohol Imports by Tycoons

RANGOON — Premium Food Service Products, a supply company owned by Burma’s biggest retailer City Mart Holdings, has defended its business operations following the arrest of one its directors on Friday during a government crackdown on unlicensed imported wine and liquor.

Premium said the alcohol was imported and supplied by firms belonging to Htoo Group of Companies and ACE Group of Companies, two large conglomerates owned, respectively, by well-known tycoon Tay Za and Phyo Ko Ko Tint San, who is the son of Minister of Sport Tint San.

UMFCCI urges Chinese businesses to start factories

The joint secretary of the Union of Myanmar Federation of Chambers of Commerce and Industries (UMFCCI), has urged Chinese investors not only to buy raw materials from Myanmar but also to set up factories.

Aye Lwin was speaking at a business meeting between Myanmar and Chinese entrepreneurs on December 16, co-organised by the UMFCCI and the China Council for the Promotion of International Trade (CCPIT) of Guangdong Province.

New Light of Myanmar (19 Dec 2013 - Thursday)

The Mirror Daily (19 Dec 2013 - Thursday)

Myanma Alinn Daily (19 Dec 2013 - Thursday)

SEA Games attract tourists

BANGKOK, 16 December 2013: Kasikorn Research Centre says the sports spectacular, SEA Games, hosted by Myanmar, should boost arrivals to the country to around 1.35 million and generate US$800 million by year-end.

The centre said The 27th SEA Games 2013, 11 to 22 December, will help bring the once-reclusive nation back into the international spotlight for the first time since it opened up the country.

Wednesday, 18 December 2013

Exports to the U.S. top US$11 million this year

Myanmar has exported more than US$ 11 million worth of products, mainly in garments and fishery, to the United States this fiscal year, according to government statistics.

The figures show a sizeable increase from US$ 2.81 million earned in exports to the U.S in the same period last year.

The United States lifted economic sanction on Myanmar to increase the economic ties between the two countries and support democratic reforms. 

Bogyoke market shopowners upset after being ordered out

Renovations to the market’s famed jewellery hall are set for this month, during the busiest time of the year.

Several dozen merchants at Yangon’s popular Bogyoke Aung San Market are refusing to follow orders to temporarily evacuate the premises at the peak of the tourism season, complaining that the loss of business could affect their livelihoods.

Lotte Chilsung to sell drink products in Myanmar

YANGON - South Korea-based Lotte Chilsung will distribute and sell soft drink products in partnership with US-based PEPSICO, according to the Directorate of Investment and Companies Administration (DICA).

The company applied for permission to open a branch office for distributing and selling its products in Myanmar.

Journalism school eyes June 2014 opening

Plans for a journalism school in Yangon supported by international organisations and donors have moved a step forward with the signing of an agreement on December 7. The school’s backers now say a June 2014 opening is likely, although many details remain unclear.

As The Myanmar Times reported in September, Germany’s DW Akademie, France’s Canal France International, global NGO International Media Support (IMS) and Sweden’s Fojo Media Institute will help set up the institution, with the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization and governments of Denmark, France, Germany, Norway and Sweden also offering support.

EU seeks to invest in Myanmar's mining industry

EU countries are planning to sign an agreement with the Ministry of Mines to begging investing in Myanmar's mining industry.

"If EU countries are working in Myanmar’s mining industry, it will be beneficial for Myanmar because they [EU countries] have higher technology than the Chinese who are exploring in Myanmar now," said Mining Department Director Win Htein.

8 Mile flyover plan scrapped

Plans for a flyover at 8 Mile junction have been scrapped because a traffic monitoring system has made it unnecessary, an official says.

The system allows traffic police to monitor traffic flows and adjust the lights at the busy Mayangone township junction to clear backed up traffic. It came online on December 8, said U Htun Aung Thin from the Ministry of Rail Transportation, which is also responsible for road transport.

Tourist arrivals soar at Yangon International Airport

Yangon International Airport has seen a dramatic increase in international arrivals from 1.6 million tourists in 2009 to 3.08 million tourists in 2012, according to statics from the Myanmar's Aviation Department.

Yangon International Airport can handle 2.7 million tourists annually and upgrading work for the airport is already underway to accommodate more visitors.

The Fine Print: Legal & Tax insight

The Employment and Skills Development Law, enacted on August 30 this year, came into force on December 1 and is reshaping the hiring landscape.

The law limits job placement services to state-operated job centres (“employment exchange offices”) and 100-percent Myanmar-owned private recruitment agencies. Foreign human resources companies therefore may have to review their business model. Further, private recruitment agencies now require a licence from the Ministry of Labour, Employment and Social Security and must not charge employees for their services. Violation of these provisions is a criminal offence.

Thirty domestic airports to be privatised

Myanmar’s Department of Civil Aviation (DCA) has recently released a list of 30 domestic airports due to be privatised.

The department said that priority will be given to companies which rate able to operate the whole airport. Opportunities are also available for companies wishing to operate under join partnerships.

Cigarette prices on the rise

Task forces working to snuff out illegal imports have importers running scared, leading to a shortage of brand-name cigarettes.

First it was the booze. Now the government task force targeting illegal alcohol imports – including the confiscation of tens of thousands of bottles of alcohol – has begun cracking down on illegal cigarette imports, officials said.

Myanmar public company to sell gold bars

Myanmar Shwe Development Public Company has said it will begin selling gold bars at a price of Ks 250,000 to Ks 4 million from February 12 next year.

The gold bars weighing 2.5 grams will cost Ks 250,000 and the biggest available gold bar, weighing 100 grams, will sell for Ks 4 million.

Shangri-La to invest $115m on new hotel

Hong Kong-based Shangri-La International Hotel Management has announced an investment of US$115 million to build a 350-room Lakeside Shangri-La hotel near Kandawgyi Lake.

The hotel, which will be located near the Shangri-La residences that were opened recently, will be the second, after Traders Hotel, to be operated in Yangon by Shangri-La. The ground-breaking ceremony was held on December 8.

American Law Firm Grows Opportunities In Myanmar

The law firm of Herzfeld, Rubin, Meyer & Rose Limited (HRMR) announced itself as the first 100% American owned law firm in Myanmar on July 29, 2013. While the United States has reduced the number of sanctions it has against the former nation of Burma in the past year, there are many U.S. sanctions still on the books that make it more difficult for American companies to do business in Myanmar than companies of any other country. I had a series of conversations with Eric Rose of HRMR about his parent law firm’s global brand, its specialty in emerging and frontier markets and why it has chosen Romania and Myanmar as its two outposts in these markets.

City plan could drive up prices

A new plan to limit high-rises could send property prices upward throughout the city, say real estate industry figures.
Zoning plans that confine high-rise buildings in Yangon to the downtown area could help drive up property prices in the short term, real estate experts said. The effect could spread through out-of-town areas as far as Bago Region.

US blacklists Myanmar firms for NKorea arms trade

WASHINGTON (AP) The United States imposed sanctions Tuesday on a Myanmar military officer and three companies it accuses of involvement in the continuing, illicit arms trade with North Korea.

The designations do not directly target Myanmar's government but will deepen doubts over the nation's compliance with U.N. Security Council resolutions.

Cutting Myanmar's military ties with North Korea has been a key goal of the U.S. policy to end Myanmar's long international isolation after its democratic reforms.

Housing and business complex on track for 2014

The first phase of the mixed-used Mingalar Mandalay project will open in early 2014, a senior official from one of the developers said last week.

Launched in August 2012, the first phase of the 46-acre project – on Mandalay’s 73rd Street, between Thazin and Ngu Shwe Wah streets in Chan Mya Thar Si township – will see 125 units, an Ocean Super Centre, and parking for 1000 cars built.

West ‘Cannot Afford’ Major Economic Aid to Burma, says China Commentary

A Chinese government-run newspaper has argued that Western nations cannot afford the cost of reviving the Burmese economy.

A hard-hitting commentary in the Chinese Communist Party-controlled Global Times suggested that Washington “will try to foment discord between China and [Burma]” to damage Chinese business relations with Naypyidaw.

Farmers lose out on rice "buffer stocks"

Buffer stock, designed to tide rice farmers over tough times, has become controversial, with some farmers accusing traders of making unfair profits.

The scheme was launched in 2011 to stabilise the price of rice. The government would buy rice from farmers at harvest time with the aim of selling the staple food for a profit if prices subsequently rose.

New Light of Myanmar (18 Dec 2013 - Wednesday)

The Mirror Daily (18 Dec 2013 - Wednesday)

Myanma Alinn Daily (18 Dec 2013 - Wednesday)

Lobby petitions Japanese investors over Dawei

With the Japan-ASEAN summit approaching, a local rights group is calling on Japanese investors to back away from the controversial Dawei Special Economic Zone (SEZ) until international best practices for compensation and environmental protection are established.

The government last month suspended all work on the multi-billion dollar SEZ until it can undergo a due diligence assessment in cooperation with Thailand ahead of seeking an investor to take over the whole project from the Italian-Thai Development Company (ITD) after the first phase of construction is completed.

Tuesday, 17 December 2013

Economic policy should come at a pace, says IMF

The principle of “no haste, no waste” must be applied in opening up Myanmar’s economy, International Monetary Fund managing director Christine Lagarde said on December 7.

“This means development done at the right pace without overwhelming the system,” the French national said, adding lasting development can only happen in an environment where there are proper controls and gatekeepers.

Myanmar’s hotel investment falls short

YANGON, 16 December 2013: As Myanmar’s gateway Yangon moves rapidly towards the 1 million annual visitor milestone, investment in the country’s hospitality sector has fallen well short of forecasted growth.

To date a disconnect between the expectations of the private sector and the ability of the government to broadly implement free market reforms remains at a critical junction, C9 Hotelworks managing director, Bill Barnett, reports in the company’s latest assessment released Saturday.

Irregular pulse: bean market seesaws in 2013

It has been a surprising year for Mandalay’s beans and pulses market as some usually popular varieties are being sold at less profit than anticipated, while others have recorded unexpected price rises thanks to climate change-related declines in yield.

The most noticeable surge in demand this year is for myae-htauk-pae (kidney beans), the price of which rose as much as 52.77 percent this year up to K110,000 per bag [each bag weighs 48 kilograms or 108 pounds], said a member of the information team at Mandalay Wholesale Centre.

Myanmar moves step closer towards EITI membership

The creation of a stakeholder group to oversee the extraction of Myanmar’s oil, gas and minerals has moved the country a step closer to membership of an international body that promotes corruption-free resource development.

It is hoped that the Myanmar and foreign industry representatives elected on December 13 will join government and civil society representatives in a multi-stakeholder group set up as part of Myanmar’s bid to join the Norway-based Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative, or EITI.

Doors opening for foreign banks

As many as 10 foreign banks may be allowed to open branches as wholly-foreign owned entities in Myanmar starting next year, an official at the Central Bank said.

This move is likely to turn the spotlight on the ability of local banks to handle international competition as the country gears up for entry into the ASEAN Economic Community in 2015.

STADA EXPANDS ITS BUSINESS ACTIVITIES INTO MYANMAR

Bad Vilbel/Yangon, December 16, 2013 - Products from the German pharmaceutical producer STADA are now also available in Myanmar (Burma). Local partners offer the relevant STADA products, including both generics and branded products, on the market via in-licensing. The product range on offer is to be expanded gradually. This makes STADA one of the first western pharmaceutical companies to take up activities in this Southeast Asian country.

DICA confident of hluttaw approval on combined investment law

A planned amalgamation of two of Myanmar’s investment laws is set to proceed smoothly ahead of the ASEAN Economic Community in 2015, making it easier for both foreign and local investors to conduct business under a more modern and comprehensible framework, a senior government said.

Early Returnee Dutch firm lends helping hand in project management

For many potential foreign investors the outcome of Myanmar’s elections in 2015 will determine if the country is firmly on the path of democratization, but Dutch firm Royal Haskoning DHV has no such reservations.

The engineering and project management consultancy was one of the first to return to Myanmar as part of an unofficial Dutch trade mission in December 2011; it has since worked on a host of projects in the country and established a permanent office in Yangon earlier this year.

Government to charge wine distributor

Executives of wine importer Premium Distribution will stand trial and face a possible prison term after a government investigation revealed the company was unable to produce an import licence for about 80,000 bottles of wine stored at its warehouse in Yangon, officials said.

On December 4, a task force from the Ministry of Commerce raided the Premium compound in Thaketa township, netting about 90,000 bottles of wine as well as tonnes of imported luxury foodstuffs as a part of continuing efforts to crack down on illicit alcohol imports.

Industry Awaits Myanmar's Offshore Exploration Block Awards

Industry players are watching with interest an impending tender award by Myanmar’s Ministry of Energy for 30 offshore oil and gas exploration blocks, which has attracted bidding by several major international oil companies (IOC) that were absent in previous tenders. The outcome of the tender will highlight the progress, or lack of one, as the country attempts to improve the climate for energy investments.

Efforts to attract foreign investments into Myanmar have remained a challenge for the government as the state is still reeling from the effects of several decades of economic isolation under military rule. The country, which opened itself to foreign investments after Thein Sein assumed the presidency in March 2011 and introduced political and economic reforms, have still not fully addressed foreign investors’ concerns.

Cost of living for expats on the rise in Yangon

Yangon has climbed to become the sixth most expensive city in the ASEAN bloc for expatriates to live and work, a new survey by global consulting firm, ECA International found last week.

Singapore was the most expensive Southeast Asian city and the 30th most expensive city worldwide for international assignees to live.

Myanmar plans tech innovation center to promote IP rights

Summary: The move is expected to help grow the intellectual property rights landscape to drive economic development in the country.

Myanmar is reportedly planning to set up a technology and innovation support center (TISC) to strengthen its intellectual property sector, which is expected to play a crucial role in the country's economic development, according to Xinhua News.

MPT to announce ‘foreign giant’ partner

On December 18, the government says it will reveal which consortium is to partner with Myanmar Posts and Telecommunications, in what could prove a key decision for the state enterprise as it prepares to battle new competition from Telenor and Ooredoo.

Consortiums headed by France’s Orange Group, Japan’s KDDI and Singapore’s SingTel – which were beaten by Telenor and Ooredoo in a hotly contested licence auction in June – are being considered by the government. An announcement is expected on December 18.

Japan Helps Laos, Myanmar Develop Infrastructure

HANOI, Dec 16 (Bernama) -- Japan has pledged a number of aid packages to support Laos and Myanmar with infrastructure-building projects, Vietnam News Agency (VNA) reported, citing news agencies reports.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe had on Sunday announced that Japan will provide Laos with an aid package worth over US$100 million to help the Southeast Asian nation expand the international airport terminal in Vientiane, and another project on poverty reduction.

Japan to give more aids during Myanmar-Japan Summit

President Thein Sein and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will hold Myanmar-Japan Summit today in Tokyo, where Japan is expected to give more loans to Myanmar.

The loan is seen by some observers as an attempt to counterbalance China's influence on Myanmar and support Japanese investors as well.

The two leaders, who are attending the Asean-Japan Summit, will meet at the Japanese Prime Minister's office in Tokyo.

United Nations Capital Development Fund : Myanmar Microfinance Investment Conference

"We will do our best to accommodate, to make sure that Myanmar has an investor friendly environment" Pr Dr Aung Tun Thet, Member of the Myanmar Investment Commission.

"When foreign investors are coming we do not see you as our enemy but we would treat you as guest. This is our duty to guard you from any harm." U Min Sein, U Min Sein Law Firm

Myanmar’s trade volume nearly hit US$16bn

Myanmar’s total trade volume has nearly hit US$16 billion in the first nine months of fiscal year 2013-14, according to the Ministry of Commerce.

The trade volume reached US$15.92 billion between April 1 and December 6, which is US$3.65 billion up from the same period last year.

The government has targeted US$25 billion for the whole total trade in 2013-14, of which 20 percent is budgeted from border trade and 80 percent from overseas trade.

Myanmar pursues better governance in extractive industries

Myanmar is making strenuous efforts to be a member of Extractive Industries Transparency Initiatives ( EITI), state media qu