Thursday, 27 March 2014

Burma's Logging Export Ban Aims to Protect Shrinking Forests

RANGOON — Burma’s more than $6 billion trade in illegal timber has continued despite attempts to limit logging, according to a new report released by the London-based Environmental Investigation Agency(EIA) and a logging export ban set to begin April 1 may not be enough to save the country's shrinking forests.

According to official figures, 6.4 million cubic meters of raw timber logs have been exported from Burma, also called Myanmar, since the year 2000.

Myanmar Awards 20 Offshore Oil And Gas Exploration Tenders

Myanmar has finally awarded tenders to explore for oil and gas in its 20 offshore blocks to international energy companies, including Royal Dutch Shell PLC (NYSE:RDS.A), ConocoPhillips (NYSE:COP) and Total SA (NYSE:TOT), a positive sign for the future of Myanmar’s energy industry.

“Considering the winning bidders include some household name international oil companies and prominent independents,” Nomita Nair, a partner specializing in international finance transactions in the energy sector at the law firm Berwin Leighton Paisner, told the International Business Times. “This bodes well for the future of oil and gas in Myanmar and will help to lift the overall standards of the greater investment environment in the country.”

Myanmar-Thailand border trade earns nearly US$ 700 million—mostly in imports

Myanmar-Thailand border trade has reached nearly US$ 700 million (Ks 676.19 billion), with the Myawady border trade camp and others accounting for the majority of this volume, according to the Commerce and Customer Affairs Department of the Ministry of Economics and Commerce.

Myanmar-Thailand border trading from April 1 last year through the second week of March for the 2013-14 fiscal year has reached US$ 679.2 million, with most of the volume consumed by imports from Thailand, the department said.

Myanmar president praises results of three-year reform policy

Yangon - Myanmar President U Thein Sein expressed gratitude to Western nations Wednesday for easing economic sanctions against the former pariah state and vowed to continue his three-year-old reform policies.

In a speech to parliament marking the third anniversary of his presidency, Thein Sein said his economic and political reforms had already succeeded in reintegrating Myanmar into the international community.

"Three years ago right here, I made a solemn pledge that we would try to stand as a respectable country in glory while actively participating in international organisations," he said.

Capital Life Insurance launched with US$ 6 million in capital

Capital Life Insurance was launched on Sunday (March 23) and will exclusively sell life insurance policies starting with capital of about Ks 6 billion (US$ 6 million).

“Current life insurance policies can be transformed into the kind that have the public’s interest in mind,” said Deputy Finance Minister Maung Maung Thein.

Myanmar president calls for efforts on GDP growth

NAY PYI TAW, March 26 (Xinhua) -- Myanmar President U Thein Sein on Wednesday called for efforts to realize the country's annual Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth target of no less than 5 percent.

U Thein Sein made the remarks in the parliament on the occasion of the third anniversary of the taking office of his government.

He underlined that achievements have been made to some extent in economic market policy, attracting foreign investment and establishing Special Economic Zones which resulted in creating job opportunities and possessing higher technologies.

New road expected to improve border trade with Thailand

A new 45-kilometre road between Thingan Nyinaung and Kawkareik township, which will become a part of the ASEAN East-West corridor, is expected to improve border trade with Thailand, observers said.

The Thingan Nyinaung-Kawkareik Road is currently under construction with the aid of Thailand. The construction is targeted for completion by 2015.

“The East-West corridor will enter Myawady, then Thingan Nyinaung, and then up to Kawkareik, after that from Eindu to Hpa-an, and Hpa-an to Yangon, and finally it will connect to India. In other words, it will become a part of the India-Myanmar highway. So, it will improve trade flows. Then, rural areas will also develop,” said Aung Myint, joint secretary of the Myanmar Engineers Council.

Business partnerships will help growth in Myanmar in 2015, says KPMG

KPMG experts have analysed the role business partnerships through mergers and acquisitions (M&A), joint ventures or strategic alliances will play driving business expansion in Myanmar in 2015.

Business partnerships through M&A, joint ventures or strategic alliances will be a driver for business expansion in Myanmar going forward into 2015, said KPMG Myanmar managing partner Yasuhide Fujii.

Priority items chosen for National Export Strategy

In developing the country’s trade sector through an export-led growth model, six products and one service have been chosen as priorities for Myanmar’s National Export Strategy, according to the national consultant responsible for the strategy.

“The priority export items have been chosen based on two criteria. One is its potential given the current trading situation, and the other is how much it could bring socioeconomic benefits for the country,” said Maung Aung.

Myanmar launches first ever civil aviation development conference

Myanmar launched its first ever civil aviation development conference in Yangon Monday.

The three-day conference is launched by Sphere Conference, which is the conference arm of Singapore Press Holding Ltd (SPH), and is supported by Myanmar's Ministry of Transport.

The event, participated by over 250 airport operators, regulators, senior airlines executives and key aviation stakeholders from across 20 countries, provides the platform for discussions and debates on the potential growth plans for Myanmar's airlines and airports.

Chinese investment standards pose challenge for ASEAN countries—People’s Forum

Chinese investment is a challenge not only for Myanmar but also for the entire ASEAN region, Premrudee Daoroung, vice chairperson of the ASEAN People’s Forum, said at a press conference held on Monday (March 24).

China does not set the investment standard for ASEAN countries. But their standards are lower than international norms, so this can pose a problem for ASEAN, the vice chair said.

Chinese companies do not have enough capital to invest in mega projects; nor can they obtain enough loans from private banks. So they have to borrow from the Chinese government. The standards set by the Chinese government, business people and companies are the same, she said.

Shell, Statoil, Total, others win Myanmar oil, gas exploration blocks

(Reuters) - International oil majors including Royal Dutch Shell, Statoil, ConocoPhillips and Total won rights to explore for oil and gas off Myanmar, according to the Southeast Asian country's Ministry of Energy.

Myanmar has awarded 10 shallow-water blocks and 10 deepwater blocks in an auction process that began in April last year, according to a posting on the ministry's website on Wednesday.

Winners of deepwater blocks will be able to explore and operate the blocks on their own, while shallow-water winners will need to work with a registered local partner, according to the terms of the production sharing contracts.

Investors hesitate to invest in power sector

NAY PYI TAW — The deputy minister for electric power has denied claims in parliament that plans to increase the price of electricity was aimed at pleasing investors.

The government will now charge Ks 20 per unit of electricity, according to deputy minister Aung Than Oo, which will cover production, construction and maintenance of hydropower plants, overheads, heavy machinery, maintenance, salaries and more.

The deputy minister was replying to a complaint by Lower House MP Sandar Min who claimed that hydropower generation amounted to 80 percent of the country’s total power output.

Myanmar President Thein Sein takes stock of economic reform policy

Myanmar's president has looked back at three years of political and economic reforms that followed decades of outright army rule. He praised the West for helping start the country's economic boom.

In an address to the national parliament marking the third anniversary of his presidency, Myanmar leader Thein Sein on Wednesday said the lifting of Western sanctions against the former state had helped his country reintegrate into the international community.

Foreign tourist arrivals steadily increasing in Mandalay archaeological zone

MANDALAY—About 100,000 foreign tourists visited Mandalay’s archaeological zone during the tourist season from last October through February this year, sources say.

“Mostly French nationals and tourists from Asia and other European countries came here. Although tourist arrivals are increasing on average, the cost of travel expenses, hotel charges and transportation has made it difficult for many to come,” said a tour guide from Mandalay.

Myanmar aims for new heights in aviation sector

MYANMAR'S Ministry of Transport has revealed grand plans to overhaul the aviation landscape and transform Myanmar into an Asian aviation hub.

Speaking at the Myanmar Civil Aviation Development Conference 2014 in Yangon this week, Nyan Htun Aung, union minister of transport, said: “For the future of Myanmar’s aviation sector, we have set a vision that aims to make Myanmar become a major (aviation) hub in Asia.”

New Light of Myanmar (27 Mar 2014 - Thursday)

The Mirror Daily (27 Mar 2014 - Thursday)

Myanma Alinn Daily (27 Mar 2014 - Thursday)

Wednesday, 26 March 2014

New Light of Myanmar (26 Mar 2014 - Wednesday)

The Mirror Daily (26 Mar 2014 - Wednesday)

Myanma Alinn Daily (26 Mar 2014 - Wednesday)

Electricity price hike set for April 1

In an effort to reduce state spending, the Pyidaungsu Hluttaw last week voted to move forward with a plan to increase the price of electricity as of April 1 for households by as much as 42.8 percent for units used over a certain threshold, parliament announced last week.

Though households will still pay K35 per unit up to 100 units, they will pay K40 per unit up to 200 units, and K50 for any units used above that.

Industrial users will pay K75 per unit up to 500 units, K100 from 501 to 10,000 units, K125 from 10,001 to 50,000 units, and K150 from 50,001 to 300,000 units. Above 300,000 units, the unit price will drop to K100.

Myanmar reboots troubled airport tender

Yangon — Myanmar is relaunching a tender to build a second international airport near its main city after the winning South Korean bid hit problems funding the $1.5 billion project, a senior aviation official said Monday.

The country has temporarily suspended the bid from a consortium led by South Korea's state-run Incheon International Airport Corp (IIAC) to construct the Hanthawaddy International Airport on the outskirts of Yangon, according to Tin Naing Tun, director general of Myanmar's civil aviation department.

No room at the table for progress

Outside, the broken sidewalk is splattered bright red from the career betel-nut seller’s eager clients.

Beside him is a narrow doorway with a long-ago etched “121”.

The wooden steps are uneven and, like most stairs in downtown colonial buildings, offer a degree of give that borders on alarming.

A small door frame on the first floor, too short not to bow through, leads into a sweltering 2 metre by 5 metre room. The glue holding the brash blue paisley linoleum has long ago bubbled and disintegrated.

Myanmar Seeks $750 Million Loan From Developed Countries To Build Hanthawaddy International Airport

Myanmar is now seeking international loans to rejuvenate the stalled construction of the Hanthawaddy Airport to the tune of $750 million, about half of the estimated $1.5 billion it would take to fund the entire project.

The government initially selected a consortium led by South Korea’s Incheon International Airport Corporation to develop the new airport, which will be built in Pegu Division, about 60 miles outside Yangon, the country’s commercial center. The group originally intended for the project to be wholly funded by private companies, but talks with Incheon failed as investors sought guarantees that the project would be profitable, the Irrawaddy, a Burmese newspaper, reported on Tuesday.

Social security scheme in the pipeline

Social security rules and regulations to be promulgated on April 1 will make it compulsory for most companies to cover its employees regardless of income, said U Sein Hlaing Myint, head of Kyauktada township branch of the Social Security Board.

The new law, which was passed in 2012 but will be enacted April 1, is designed to attract more contributions from companies to provide government benefits, though concerns remain that struggling businesses may try to evade making payments.

The fees will be based on employee salaries that will be submitted to the Social Security Board while vendors, students and farmers can alternatively register with the board separately to become eligible for benefits, he added.

Myanmar’s Growing—and Dangerous—Jade Trade

In the final three quarters of 2013, export earnings from Myanmar’s jade trade reached $920 million—up more than a third from a year earlier—according to newly released figures from the country’s Ministry of National Planning and Economic Development.

But even that hefty sum almost certainly grossly underestimates the total value, as much of the jade is smuggled out of Myanmar (formerly known in the West as Burma) and never logged in government books or tax logs. A 2011 study by the Harvard Ash Center estimated the annual value of Myanmar’s jade trade to be $8 billion.

Exchange rate fluctuation smooth as USD falters

Moderate depreciation of the US dollar against Asian currencies over the past three months has resulted in marked improvements for the kyat, which has appreciated as much as 2.42 percent against the greenback since mid-February.

According to official exchange rates in Yangon, the value of the kyat against the dollar has grown from K988 on Feb 13 to K964 on March 20.

The dollar started rising in international markets in November, reaching a high in January before receding. The kyat’s resilience against the dollar, local experts said, is a testament of prudent monetary policy imposed by the Central Bank of Myanmar in recent years.

Watchdog Group: Most Myanmar Log Exports Illegal

Most of Myanmar's log exports in recent years have been illegal according to international trade data, an environmental watchdog group said Tuesday, in a sign that an export ban due to begin next week is likely to have little effect.

The state Myanma Timber Enterprise said the government will prohibit log exports starting April 1 to reduce deforestation and boost the country's wood processing industry.

The Environmental Investigation Agency said an analysis of international trade statistics showed that global buyers reported importing 22.8 million cubic meters of logs from Myanmar in 2000-13 — 16.4 million cubic meters more than was listed in the government's own export figures.

Garment sector to hit $1.5b revenue mark

Revenues in the garment sector are expected to grow by as much as 50 percent for the 2013-14 fiscal year and reach US$1.5 billion, experts said.

Daw Khaing Khaing Nwe, secretary of the Myanmar Garment Manufacturers’ Association, told The Myanmar Times that the sector has continued to benefit from relaxed trade rules from abroad, while the country has seen a distinct uptick in foreign interest in the sector.

“After we officially got GSP [Generalised System of Preferences] status from the EU in mid-2013, exports began to substantially increase,’’ she said.

Tycoon Sees Pitfalls, And Potential in The New Myanmar

After hibernating from the global investment world, decades later… Myanmar is ready to open its gates. Chairman of Singapore-listed conglomerate Yoma Strategic, Serge Pun, shares why he believes now is the time to strike. The company specializes in real estate, financial services and agriculture in Pun’s native land (Myanmar). Pun, by the way, is estimated at a $500-million net worth.

Poor practices prove taxing for government

Rampant corruption and poor collection practices will likely make it impossible for the government to fully benefit from the recently enacted 2014 Union Tax Law, experts said.

On paper, the 2014 Union Tax Law would increase the tax to gross domestic product (GDP) ratio from 3 to 4.5 percent this year providing much needed revenues to the government, but staffing issues as well as taxpayer bribery will continue to be factors moving forward, legal expert U Thaw Nay Zaw told The Myanmar Times last week.

Myanmar developer Yoma sees long road to ASEAN integration

(Reuters) - Myanmar-focused conglomerate Yoma Strategic Holdings Ltd (YOMA.SI) said Southeast Asia needs to work exceptionally hard to realize a balanced, European Union-style integration of such disparate economies.

Yoma is listed in Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) member Singapore whose advanced island-state economy contrasts with that of fellow member Myanmar, rich in gems and natural gas but paralyzed by decades of military rule and isolating sanctions.

Elsewhere in ASEAN, communist Laos has an economy that is less than 3 percent the size of that of monarchist neighbor Thailand, according to The World Bank. The population difference would suggest a size of 10 percent.

Focus on the food chain

For Hsing Ho the best business approach is to think globally and act locally – an approach the recently opened DuPont operation in Myanmar plans on taking seriously as it turns its eye and expertise toward the fragile food chain in the long isolated nation.

“We believe that as a global company there is a lot to be learned at each locality. The local characteristics are unique for example in the farming community, uniqueness around the weather, the soil, the conditions and so on and so forth that is very locally based,” Mr Ho said at the launch of DuPont in Myanmar.

Myanmar’s $6 Bn Timber Corruption Black Hole Revealed by Official Data

New analysis of the Myanmar Government’s forestry and trade data points to a multi-billion dollar illegal logging and exports black hole – indicating widespread criminality and official corruption.

The Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) today released the new briefing Data Corruption: Exposing the true scale of logging in Myanmar, scrutinising official figures on log harvests and timber exports over the past 15 years.

The figures, from the Ministry of Environmental Conservation and Forestry, were published by Myanmar’s Eleven Media group earlier this month.

Tuesday, 25 March 2014

Desperately seeking bidders: Dawei SEZ

The massive Dawei project has taken a new twist, as no interested bidders have applied for concessions opened in February for three jobs: a dual-lane highway linking Thailand with the site in eastern Burma, a small port, and a 30,000-rai industrial estate.

“The terms of reference for the three projects should be revised to make them more appealing to foreign investors,” said a source from Thailand’s Government House who asked not to be named.

Under the original schedule, Dawei SEZ Development Co (DSEZ), a special-purpose vehicle, had planned to open bidding for the three construction jobs in February and announce the results in April.

Myanmar-Thailand border trade earns nearly US$ 700 million—mostly in imports

Myanmar-Thailand border trade has reached nearly US$ 700 million (Ks 676.19 billion), with the Myawady border trade camp and others accounting for the majority of this volume, according to the Commerce and Customer Affairs Department of the Ministry of Economics and Commerce.

Myanmar-Thailand border trading from April 1 last year through the second week of March for the 2013-14 fiscal year has reached US$ 679.2 million, with most of the volume consumed by imports from Thailand, the department said.

Myanmar's Yangon Stock Exchange (YSE) On Track For 2015 Launch

Unlike construction of its new Hanthawaddy Airport, Myanmar’s first stock exchange in more than 50 years, the Yangon Stock Exchange (YSE), is mostly on track for the planned 2015 launch, despite a few major obstacles.

The YSE is set to open October 2015, after the government passed the Securities Exchange Law last September. Japan’s Tokyo Stock Exchange (TSE) and Daiwa Securities Group, a Japanese investment company, are tasked with establishing the nation's first equities bourse since the Southeast Asian country was taken over by a military regime in 1962, the Burmese newspaper Irrawaddy reported on Monday.

Thailand firms discuss investing in Myanmar’s hotel industry

YANGON—More than 20 companies from Thailand have begun discussions regarding possible cooperation in a joint venture with Myanmar’s hotel services.

The discussions occurred during a meeting between the Ministry of Hotels and Tourism and Thai business people held at the Park Royal Hotel in Yangon on Saturday (March 22).

During the meeting, about 100 Myanmar hoteliers, as well as departmental heads from the Ministry of Hotels and Tourism, studied investment data together with more than 600 business people from Thailand.

Electricity Rate Hike Could Hurt Competitiveness, Raise Consumer Prices

RANGOON — Last week, Parliament approved a government proposal to introduce a long-expected hike in electricity prices per April 1. Business sector representatives now warn that the measures will undercut the competiveness of Burmese industries and lead to a rise consumer prices.

Under the new plan, for households using under 100 kilowatt hours, or units, per month, the price will remain at 35 kyat (less than US$0.04) per unit. The price will rise to 40 kyat per unit for those using between 101 and 200 units in a month, and to 50 kyat for those using more than 200 units.

London Cigarette Company to be inspected for legal breach

British American Tobacco Myanmar Ltd, which manufactures and distributes London cigarettes in Myanmar, is under inspection by respective authorities for its alleged breach of export rules, according to government officials.

It is one of the cigarette companies approved by the Myanmar Investment Commission (MIC) and so is required to abide by the 1/2013 notification of the MIC, which says “90 percent of their total production output must be exported.” This means that, if 10 packs are sold locally, 90 packs must be exported.

Foreign banks head for Myanmar

Myanmar’s government is preparing to allow foreign banks to operate independently within the country before the end of the year. Already a “fast track” process for the selection of up to 10 banks has begun, according to sources in Myanmar’s Central Bank. But there is already resistance from local banks.

“These banks are very nervous about the prospect of foreign banks, which have more expertise and better access to capital, coming to Myanmar to do retail banking, fearing they’d put a number of local banks out of business,” said Jared Bissinger, a researcher in development economics based in Yangon.

Japan's Aeon is looking to expand in five Asean countries

Japanese conglomerate Aeon is likely to expand its business into five countries in Southeast Asia including Thailand if those countries provide a high growth rate in the next few years.

That is especially the case for Cambodia, Laos and Myanmar.

The Aeon Group has assigned Aeon Thana Sinsap (Thailand) to oversee microfinance and leasing businesses in Cambodia, Myanmar and Laos through the latter's wholly owned subsidiaries.

Infrastructure and accessibility Myanmar's stumbling blocks

TOURISM is one of the seven priority areas for infrastructure development in Myanmar as the surge of arrivals in recent times threatens to overwhelm the country's existing capacity.

Speaking at Myanmar Infrastructure Summit 2014 in Traders Hotel, Yangon last week, Hlaing Maw Oo, project director of Ministry of Hotels and Tourism, said: “Accessibility is the most important for the tourism sector and thus investors need to look at (putting their money there). Since the last two years, the number of international airlines flying directly to Myanmar is increasing rapidly but when we say accessibility, we also need to think about better road conditions. Our current road conditions are not favourable for tourism and infrastructure development needs to be upgraded."

Myanmar owns over Ks 10 trillion in public domestic debt besides US$9.5 billion in foreign debt – Finance Minister

NAYPYITAW-Myanmar has a total of Ks10.824 trillion (US$11.23 billion) in public domestic debt as of March last year from selling treasury bonds and treasury bills to fulfill the country's needs, according to the Minister of Finance and Revenue Win Shein.

Minister of Finance and Revenue Win Shein yesterday told the Union Parliament that the remaining public domestic debt from successive years to 2011 amounts to Ks 8.281 trillion (US$8.59 billion). After the new government took office, it has sold treasury bonds and treasury bills worth Ks 1.657 trillion (US$1.72 billion) in the FY 2011-2012 and Ks 886 billion (US$919 million) in the FY 2012-2013 to fulfill the needs. So, the country has a total of Ks. 10.824 trillion public domestic debt up to the end of March 31, 2013.

Kishida announces fresh loans for Myanmar

YANGON – Japan will provide about a ¥24 billion in new loans to Myanmar to help build power transmission grids, Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida told President Thein Sein on Monday in the capital city of Naypyitaw.

Kishida, who flew into Yangon on Sunday, also met with his counterpart, Wunna Maung Lwin, and confirmed Japan’s plan to provide about ¥8 billion in fresh grant aid to help build a train operation monitoring system and introduce advanced medical equipment to hospitals.

Int’l tenders to be invited for rail upgrades

Myanmar government plans to invite international tenders to bid for railway upgrade projects including the Yangon-Mandalay railway line, said a ministry official at the recent Myanmar Infrastructure Summit.

“Foreign investments are required for our projects. In terms of international aid, JICA [Japan International Cooperation Agency] has contributed the largest. Nevertheless, we will put out [our projects] to international tenders. It’s not true that we will just give them to Japan,” said Kyaw Kyaw Myo, assistant general manager at the Ministry of Rail Transportation.

More natural gas for Myanmar

PTTEP’s Zawtika gas project due to start flowing

The offshore Zawtika project operated by Thai state-owned enterprise PTT Exploration and Production Public Company is due to begin supplying 100 million cubic feet of gas a day to Myanmar, said a PTTEP spokesperson.

PTTEP’s external relations manager, Myanmar asset, Siriphong Fuenglikhit, told Mizzima Business Weekly in an in a series of emails late last month that the gas for Myanmar will account for a third of the Zawtika project’s daily output. Another 200mmscfd will be piped to Thailand when the project goes into operation this month, he said.

Thai-Myanmar medical collaboration inked

World Medical Centre, a branch of Bangkok Chain Hospital (BCH), has signed a memorandum of understanding with Family Mandalar in Myanmar to undertake the former's first operation outside Thailand.

WMC aims to become a medical centre in Asean over the next three to five years.

Dr Chalerm Harnpanich, chief executive officer of BCH, said that under the initial partnership, it would send a team of specialists to provide medical examinations and treatments at Mandalar hospitals in Mandalay.

New Light of Myanmar (25 Mar 2014 - Tuesday)

The Mirror Daily (25 Mar 2014 - Tuesday)

Myanma Alinn Daily (25 Mar 2014 - Tuesday)

Japanese FM visits Myanmar to push closer relations

YANGON, March 23 (Xinhua) -- Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida arrived in Yangon Sunday night for an official visit to Myanmar in a fresh move to push relations with the Southeast Asian nation.

During his two-day visit, Kishida will call on President U Thein Sein and hold talks with his Myanmar counterpart U Wunna Maung Lwin in Nay Pyi Taw on promotion of economic cooperation.

Mazda to launch car workshop in Yangon

Japan-based Mazda motor company is planning to launch an auto workshop in Yangon this year, according to the marketing manager of Cycle & Carriage Automobile Myanmar Co Ltd.

“Mazda company’s car workshop will be open within 2014. The place will be on Ywama Kyaung Road, Insein Township, Yangon,” said Thet Su Mon.

The Cycle & Carriage Automobile Myanmar is Mazda’s sole distributor of its car spare-parts in Myanmar.

Myanmar to host ASEAN leadership forum in May

Myanmar will host ASEAN Leadership Forum related to the 24th Summit of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in Nay Pyi Taw in May, official media reported Sunday.

The annual forum is slated for May 11 to 12.

At the forum, heads of states and government, entrepreneurs and experts will focus on regional challenges, ASEAN cooperation in 2015 and progress of the region and globe, the report said.

Alcohol consumption increasing in Myanmar

YANGON—The rate of alcohol consumption is rising in Myanmar, with local production of beer, wine and spirits at more than 25 million gallons annually, according to the local reports.

Tens of thousands of gallons of wine, beer, and hard alcohol—both legal and illegal—are being imported from foreign countries and are now penetrating the local market.

There are state-owned beer and wine factories in Myanmar, but the Myanmar Investment Commission has also allowed permits for foreign beer companies to operate here, subject to scrutiny by respective state and regional government authorities.

US$ 26 million-plus goes to Myanmar hydropower projects

The Hydropower Implementation Department under the Ministry of Electric Power will spend more than US$ 26 million in loans from China and other aid on its hydropower projects, according to the Budget for the 2014-2015 fiscal year and the Union Budget Bill (2014).

The department’s budget includes more than US$ 8 million for machines and iron wear to be used for the upper Yeywa hydropower project, more than US$ 8 million for the Thahtay hydropower project and more than US$ 4 million for the upper Kengtung project.

Myanmar warns against higher ultraviolet index in coming summer

YANGON, March 23 (Xinhua) -- Myanmar meteorologists are warning against the threat of higher ultraviolet (UV) index in coming summer, saying that daily temperatures are estimated to reach its peak in April, the hottest month in the country.

The index for last year's summer in Yangon saw a rise to nearly 13. UV indexes between 10 and 11 can be harmful to human skin, the New Light of Myanmar reported Sunday.

"People living in the country's commercial cities have become trapped in the scorching heat and have been warned of skin cancer and permanent blindness," it said.

Monday, 24 March 2014

ITC to help boost tourist appeal of Kayah State

The International Trade Centre (ITC) will provide technical support to Kayah State, which lags behind other parts of the country in developing its travel and tour businesses, to help it become a more attractive tourist destination, according to the Union of Myanmar Travel Association.

Starting from this May, ITC is planning to develop more job opportunities for people living in that region. Kayah State has been chosen by ITC because its travel and tourism sector is the least developed among all of Myanmar’s regions and yet the beauty of its natural landscape has much potential to attract tourists.

Myanmar gov't seeks parliament'approval for national planning bill

The Myanmar government has put forward to the parliament a national planning bill for 2014-15 fiscal year for approval which calls for greater education and health spendings, state media reported Saturday.

Submitted by Minister of National Planning and Economic Development Dr. Kan Zaw, the bill allocates a budget of more than 1.142 trillion Kyats (1.18 billion US dollars) to education in 2014-15, up from 908 billion Kyats in 2013-14, accounting for 5.9 percent of the total spending.

ASEAN People’s Forum calls for abolition of six hydropower projects

Discussion at the ASEAN People’s Forum on Saturday focused terminating six hydropower projects to be implemented on Thanlwin River that activists fear will send 90 percent of the power generated to China and Thailand.

Vietnam, Thailand and Cambodia participated in the discussions about the negative impacts on the rivers that are expected to result from the implementation of dam projects.

Myanmar's education reform process getting views from many stakeholders

UNESCO involved in key policy debates with officials on legislation and decentralisation

UNESCO has participated in a national-level Pragmatic Education Reform Forum in Nay Pyi Taw, in Myanmar.

The forum was opened by Vice-President U Sai Mauk Kham.

More than 700 participants, including members of parliament, Ministry of Education personnel, university rectors, teachers and students, discussed the findings and policy directions from the Comprehensive Education Sector Review (CESR) and the Education Promotion Implementation Committee (EPIC) working groups.

Malaysian Firms Eye Construction Prospects in Burma

RANGOON — With its companies doing over US$1.6 billion worth of business in Burma, Malaysia was ranked as the seventh-biggest source of foreign investment into the country by the end of January 2014.

And with Burma’s government touting big plans for upgrading infrastructure such as roads and railways, as well as building more houses for an urbanizing population, Malaysia’s corporate presence in its Southeast Asian neighbor could be set to jump some more, with construction companies eyeing up more than $100 million worth of deals.

Burma offers timeless appeal

In the chilly early morning mist, traditional Inle Lake fishermen in their flat- bottomed skiffs quietly go about their task of setting and pulling their nets.

It is a scene that has been repeated for centuries but now the peace and quiet is shattered by the noise of dozens of diesel engines powering long skinny canoes ferrying tourists around Burma's second-biggest freshwater lake.

The canoes, with up to five visitors sitting in single file, pass within a few metres of the fishermen. There are no speed restrictions and no navigation markers on this vast lake.

Burma Infrastructure Projects ‘At Risk’ From Political Uncertainty

Uncertainty about reforms to Burma’s military-dominated Constitution threatens to undermine foreign investment in major infrastructure projects such as the ambitious Hanthawaddy International Airport project, a business risk assessor said.

The assessment from Business Monitor International (BMI) follows the collapse of negotiations on an airport contract between Burma’s Department of Civil Aviation and a consortium led by South Korea’s Incheon International Airport Corporation.

Myanmar spends the least for education among ASEAN countries: AAM

Myanmar is the lowest spender in the education sector and the third lowest in the healthcare sector among the ASEAN countries, according to a recent survey released by Action Aid Myanmar (AAM).

According to the government budget for the 2013-14 fiscal year, the government allocated only 11.8 percent of the entire budget for all ministries to the Ministry of Education, and only 6.5 percent for healthcare.

Japan to offer 8 bil. yen in fresh grant aid to Myanmar

Japan will announce Monday it will provide about 8 billion yen in fresh grant aid to Myanmar to help the Southeast Asian nation build a train operation monitoring system and introduce advanced medical equipment to hospitals, sources close to the two countries' governments said Sunday.

Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida, who arrived in Yangon on Sunday, will unveil the new financial support Monday during talks with his Myanmar counterpart Wunna Maung Lwin and President Thein Sein in the country's administrative capital Naypyitaw, the sources said.

President orders new Bagan hotel zone project to avoid cultural zones

YANGON—President Thein Sein has directed hoteliers in Myanmar’s most popular tourist destination to construct a new hotel zone project in Bagan far from the cultural regions, according to the Ministry of Culture.

“The Ministry of Culture and the Ministry of Hotels and Tourism will have to cooperate closely in the extension of hotel zone projects in Bagan,” said Minister of Culture Aye Myint Kyu at a press conference held at the National Museum on Tuesday (March 18).

While visiting Bagan, Thein Sein told the Mandalay Regional Government Committee that extension of hotel facilities in the Bagan archaeological region must remain clear of cultural zones. Three locations in Bagan have already been designated ancient archaeological regions.

Burma: Joan Bakewell discovers Aung San Suu Kyi's country in a different light

Joan Bakewell, the writer and broadcaster, discovers a new side to Burma at the Irrawaddy Literary Festival

In Burma tourism is coming out of the shadows and into the sunlight. For decades Burma’s military dictatorship - they renamed the country Myanmar - has held it in an iron grip . Opposition leaders such as Aung San Suu Kyi asked people not to travel there; visa restrictions have been strict and wars fought by their minority peoples have riven the country.

Myanmar-EU: Agreement on Investment Protection launches

Negotiations to sign the Investment Protection Agreement between Myanmar and the European Union reportedly began at the Ministry of National Planning and Economic Development on Thursday (March 20).

“Plans to sign the Investment Protection Agreement are being carried out. The European Union includes 28 member countries. To make this agreement with Myanmar, all member countries’ agreement is needed,” said Union Minister Kan Zaw.

Myanmar log export ban to boost timber prices

KUCHING: Myanmar’s upcoming ban on log exports will have a positive effect on Malaysia’s timber sector on the back of relatively stable demand from India and Japan.

RHB Research Institute Sdn Bhd (RHB Research) analyst Hoe Lee Leng said Myanmar will start to ban log exports from April 1 in a bid to eradicate wood log smuggling and conserve its nation’s forests.

The research firm observed that Myanmar is the fifth-largest tropical log producer and third-largest exporter in the Asia Pacific region.

Foreign investment invited to promote ports

YANGON—In a bid to boost the trade sector by upgrading ports, which is one of Myanmar’s trading priorities, the authorities extended an invitation to foreign technicians and investors during the Myanmar Infrastructure Summit last week.

“The country in its current situation lacks the technical know-how and foreign investment to support ongoing development projects like deep sea ports, ports and terminals,” Kyaw Oo, the deputy chief engineer for Myanmar Port Authority (MPA), said at the summit.

Burma partnership agreed to help regenerate economy

The University of Wolverhampton is to sign an agreement to provide training and courses In Burma.

The University has been working in the South East Asian country for the past 18 months. Initially this has involved providing Special Educational Needs training in the country to Burmese nationals.

A delegation from the University will arrive in Burma to sign an academic partnership agreement.

Myanmar still more than US$ 9.5 million in debt to foreign aid organisations

As of December last year , Myanmar still needed to pay off more than US$ 9.59 billion (Ks 9.22 trillion) to three international funding organisations and 16 countries, the deputy finance minister told a parliamentary session in Nay Pyi Taw on Thursday (March 20).

Aung Linn was responding to a question raised by Kayah State MP Kyaw Khine Win (Maisal) concerning the state budget and the country’s financial situation.

Myanmar’s marine ‘Lost World’ braces for tourism

MERGUI ARCHIPELAGO, Myanmar — Where the Indian Ocean rolls toward Myanmar’s southwestern coast, a lacework of 800 islands rises, fringed with shimmering beaches of no footprints.

Here hornbills break a primeval silence as they flutter through soaring jungle canopy. Pythons slumber on the gnarled roots of eerie mangrove forests. Only rarely will you spot the people who live here: the Moken, shy, peaceful nomads of the sea.

Greater Yangon Plan to cost US$ 4.5 billion

The overall cost of the Greater Yangon Plan to develop Myanmar’s economic hub will reach approximately US$ 4.5 billion and foreign investment will be invited, Yangon city officials said at the recent Myanmar Infrastructure Summit.

“To implement the Greater Yangon Plan, we will invite foreign investment. Our target for the project is this year. Under the plan, there are 77 projects of which 26 are for civil development. The other 51 are infrastructural projects,” said Toe Aung, deputy chief of the Town Planning and Land Management Department under the Yangon City Development Committee (YCDC).

Myanmar To Cut Tax Rate On Imported Cars

YANGON, March 21 (Bernama) -- Myanmar authorities will cut tax rate on imported cars in the coming fiscal year of 2014-15 in a bid to further bring down car prices, Xinhua news agency reported quoting local media.

Current car prices have amounted to one-fifth of those in the past thanks to measures taken in recent years, the New Light of Myanmar said.

The number of imported cars has reached more than 250,000, leading to traffic jams in the heavily populated capital city.

CPG to sign for Kyaukphyu SEZ

Singapore-based CPG Consultancy Ltd will sign this month with the Kyaukphyu SEZ tender invitation and selection committee to serve as key adviser for inviting international developers to the Kyaukphyu Special Economic Zone, according to committee member Ba Shwe.

The 1000-acre Kyaukphyu SEZ project is strategically located four miles from Kyaukphyu Township in resource-rich Rakhine State. Its implementation will coincide with construction of the Kyaukphyu deep sea port.

RHB Research positive on timber sector as Myanmar imposes export ban

KUALA LUMPUR: RHB Research remains positive on the prospects of the timber sector, on the back of the upcoming log export ban in Myanmar with effect from April 1 and relatively stable demand from India and Japan.

It said on Friday the main earnings drivers include rising log prices, the weakening of the ringgit against the US dollar (which will benefit its export-derived revenue) and a rise in crude palm oil (CPO) prices.

Electronic savings account services opens for public use at CB bank

Electronic savings account services (eSavings account) have opened for public use at Co-operative Bank (CB), according to CB’s deputy general manager, Zeyar Kyaw.

The eSavings account is similar to a savings deposit account, except that it sends the banking process to the customer by mail or e-statement. Customers who use the service don’t have to visit the bank to withdraw cash or make payments, said Zeyar Kyaw.

New Light of Myanmar (24 Mar 2014 - Monday)

The Mirror Daily (24 Mar 2014 - Monday)

Myanma Alinn Daily (24 Mar 2014 - Monday)

New Light of Myanmar (23 Mar 2014 - Sunday)

The Mirror Daily (23 Mar 2014 - Sunday)

Myanma Alinn Daily (23 Mar 2014 - Sunday)

New Light of Myanmar (22 Mar 2014 - Saturday)

The Mirror Daily (22 Mar 2014 - Saturday)

Myanma Alinn Daily (22 Mar 2014 - Saturday)

Friday, 21 March 2014

Myanmar's log export ban to hurt businessmen but help forests

(Reuters) - Myanmar will ban the export of raw timber logs from April 1, choking off profits in a sector that provided critical funding to the country's former military rulers for decades, as a new reformist government steps up efforts to save forests.

Myanmar has some of Asia's largest remaining expanses of forests, from the slopes of Himalayan foothills in the north to steamy rainforest in the south.

Jade Prospectors Face a Bumpy Road to Riches

HPAKANT, Kachin State —About three hours outside of Myitkyina, I realized I was traveling on the worst road I have ever taken. It was a red-dirt road riddled with huge pot holes that could easily overturn a carelessly driven truck.

My destination was Hpakant, the jade town just 60 miles from the state capital, but it took the whole day to get there. Located about 220 miles north of Mandalay, Hpakant is famous for producing the world’s highest-quality jade.

Myanmar president meets EU trade commissioner

Myanmar President U Thein Sein met visiting European Union (EU) Commissioner for Trade Karel De Gucht in Nay Pyi Taw Thursday, said the President's Office.

The pair had discussions on increase of Myanmar's export to the EU, promotion of trade links, efforts for socio-economic development, signing of a trade agreement, technical assistance to Myanmar for upgrading Myanmar's export to EU standard and encouragement of more EU entrepreneurs to invest in the Southeast Asian nation, Xinhua reported citing sources.

Foreign investment invited for housing as 30% of Yangon houses, squats are in low quality

YANGON—In a bid to boost living standards for the large numbers of Myanmar people who struggle to find adequate housing, the construction ministry is inviting foreign investors to get into the housing business in Myanmar.

“Due to a gradually increasing population rate in Yangon, squatters and 30 percent of Yangon residents are living in low quality homes. The government has decided that low-cost housing projects must be implemented as a solution,” Aye Aye Myint, director for the department of Human Settlement and Housing Development (HSHD) under the construction ministry, told the Myanmar Infrastructure Summit in Yangon on Tuesday (March 18).

Myanmar tells Australia it's open for business

Myanmar has extended the welcome mat and the world is beating a path its door.

But not many companies from Australia are joining the rush.

Glenn Robinson, the Chairman of the Australia-Myanmar Chamber of Commerce, is with the largest commercial delegation to yet visit Myanmar from Australia.

He says even Australian mining companies which are used to working in developing and difficult countries are being cautious.

Myanmar's Lawmakers Approve Government Move to Hike Power Rates

Myanmar's parliament on Wednesday approved an increase in electricity rates beginning next month amid concerns that the unpopular move will trigger a rise in the price of goods and services.

Previous government moves to raise power rates have met with protests. In November last year, parliament rejected a government attempt to jack up rates.

Lawmakers were skeptical about the new rates on Monday when the government sent the proposal, but a majority of them relented and dropped their opposition two days later.

Willis Opens Representative Office in Myanmar

LONDON, March 20, 2014 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- Willis Group Holdings plc (NYSE:WSH), the global risk adviser, insurance and reinsurance broker, has signalled its commitment to Myanmar's growing insurance industry by opening a representative office in the country.

The office in Yangon will support Willis's multinational and Asian client base, and also provide domestic businesses and the insurance industry in Myanmar with a point of contact into Willis's regional and global capabilities.

Tourism and travel sector to continue upward trend

Myanmar's travel and tourism sector is set to grow 9.5 percent in 2014 to reach K933 billion (US$971 million) as the number of international visitors to the country, especially from Asia, is expected to continue climbing, says a report published on March 19 by the London-based World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) research group.

According to the Travel & Tourism Economic Impact 2014report, direct capital into the tourism and travel sector accounted for K849 billion ($885 million) last year, or 1.6pc of the total gross domestic product (GDP), with capital likely to grow an average 6.9pc annually over the next ten years reaching up to 1.8pc of total GDP.

Ch Karnchang mulls inroads into Myanmar

CH KARNCHANG, a leading infrastructure and power plant construction company, is studying moving into the same business in Myanmar within three years to balance its investment portfolio in Thailand, which has faced unexpected situations.
"We may start to invest in Myanmar this year or maybe next year, depending on the demand in the market," CEO Plew Trivisavavet said yesterday.

This follows the company's success in expanding to Laos 10 years ago, he said.

M.V. Crystal Symphony arrives at Thilawa Port with 600 passengers

A round-the-world cruiseship carrying 600 passengers, the M.V. Crystal Symphony, reportedly arrived at Thilawa Port in Yangon at 5 a.m. on Tuesday (March 18).

Thet Lwin Toe, chairperson of Myanmar Voyages Tour Company in charge of the ship’s arrival, said that this year has seen more cruises arriving at Thiawa International Port in the early morning hours and at night.

Myanmar, EU Working Towards Investment Protection Pact

YANGON, March 20 (Bernama) -- Myanmar and the European Union (EU) are working towards reaching a mutually beneficial investment protection agreement, Xinhua news agency reported.

EU trade commissioner Karel De Gucht and Myanmar's National Planning and Economic Development Minister Dr Kan Zaw will hold talks on the agreement in Nay Pyi Taw on Thursday.

Japanese techniques saving murals in Myanmar's ancient temple complex

BAGAN, Myanmar--Japanese specialists who helped restore murals in ancient Japanese tombs are working with Myanmar to preserve centuries-old Buddhist images at the sprawling Bagan temple complex here.

The site ranks alongside the grandeurs of Angkor Wat in Cambodia and Borobudur in Indonesia.

Of the many thousands of Buddhist temples, pagodas and monasteries constructed between the 11th and 13th centuries, more than 3,000 survive in Bagan.

Ooredoo Introduces MobileMonday to Myanmar

Ooredoo said it has introduced the global networking forum MobileMonday (MoMo) in Myanmar through its Ideabox programme.

MoMo, which began in Helsinki, Finland in 2000, is an open community platform of mobile industry developers and individuals fostering brand neutral cooperation and cross-border P2P business opportunities through live networking events to demo products, share ideas and discuss trends from both local and global markets.

Myanmar auto market thrives on new imports

YANGON -- Myanmar's auto market is taking off as foreign car manufacturers make inroads with the recent introduction of import opportunities for new cars.

Germany's Daimler, China's Dongfeng Motor Group and other automakers have set up sales footholds in Myanmar since last autumn when the country's government started to allow both companies and individuals to import new cars. Myanmar's auto market is currently dominated by used cars. However, the country's growing middle class means that many drivers are expected to switch to new vehicles in the future.

Thilawa SEZ public offering sees 700,000 shares sell out

A total of 700,000 shares of the Thilawa Special Economic Zone had sold out by March 14, according to the chairperson of the SEZ’s public company.

The shares, ranging from tens of thousands to millions of kyat, are in high demand, said Win Aung. Share sales between March 3 and March 14 amounted to more than Ks 7 billion (about US$ 7 million), he said.

Myanmar seeks transformation of state media into public service media

Myanmar is seeking a transformation of its state-run media into a public service media in a bid to narrow the knowledge gap among the country's people, state media reported Tuesday.

A public service media bill has been submitted to the parliament's Lower House for approval, Minister of Information U Aung Kyi was quoted as saying.

"The bill was drafted with the assistance of UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) so that the bill can be in conformity with the principles of diversity of media pluralism," U Aung Kyi told the parliament Monday.

Booming tourism in Bagan nets fifth hotel zone

Thanks to the booming numbers of local and foreign tourists to the ancient city of Bagan, the centre of Myanmar’s culture and heritage, the Ministry of the Hotels and Tourism has decided to add a fifth hotel zone to the area.

With Bagan’s four existing hotel zones reaching full capacity, the fifth zone is being added for the convenience of tourists. However, a city plan is also being undertaken to ensure that the buildings are not located in the vicinity of the city’s ancient temples.

Myanmar Targets 3 Million Tons of Rice Exports by 2018-19

Myanmar plans to increase its rice exports to about 3 million tons in five years, up almost three times the current exports of around one million tons, according to the Secretary General of the Myanmar Rice Federation (MRF), reports the Myanmar Times.

The MRF Secretary General says that the government is framing a new trade policy and it would help rice exporters gain access to new markets. However, Myanmar will have to build all-season ports, and construct high-capacity warehouses and rice reprocessing plants to sustain such a high volume of exports, he says.

Singapore the top investor in Myanmar hotels and tourism sector

Singapore has become the top investor in Myanmar’s hotels and tourism sector, with a total investment of more than US$ 880 million (Ks 847.44 billion), according to the Myanmar Infrastructure Summit held on Tuesday (March 18).

“Nay Pyi Taw, Mandalay, Bagan and Inlay regions have seen a massive influx of tourists after Yangon,” said Hlaing Oo, Director of the Ministry of Hotels and Tourism. “Due to the enormous flow of tourists, foreign companies have begun making huge investments in the hotel sector, such as with five- and four-star hotels in Yangon. The top investor in this sector is Singapore.”

Myanmar halts hotel construction

YANGON - Myanmar has prohibited the building of more hotels in the ancient city of Bagan, which the government hopes to nominate as a World Heritage Site soon, a minister said on Wednesday.

"We will not allow new hotel constructions there," Soe Thein, minister of the president's office, told dpa.

There are currently 17 hotels under construction in four zones adjacent to temple city, but none are situated in the site itself.

New Light of Myanmar (21 Mar 2014 - Friday)

The Mirror Daily (21 Mar 2014 - Friday)

Myanma Alinn Daily (21 Mar 2014 - Friday)

Wednesday, 19 March 2014

Health, Loan Insurance Coming to Burma This Year

RANGOON — Burma’s insurance industry will begin providing currently nonexistent health and credit guarantee insurance policies in the 2014-15 fiscal year, according to state-run Myanma Insurance.

“We will operate health insurance and loan insurance services in the coming financial year,” said Aye Min Thein, managing director of Myanma Insurance. The fiscal year begins on April 1.

Myanmar plans to invite foreign investments for railway sector

YANGON—The Ministry of Rail Transportation is now planning to invite foreign investment to carry out major projects for the railways sector, according to the Ministry.

The plan, which represents a major shift for the railways sector during the incumbent government, will be implemented in the near future.

“We are going to implement a railway transportation system like those of neighbouring countries. That’s why we are planning to invite foreign investors. For example, if we construct a sky-train, we will need technical aid from abroad,” said an officer from the Railways ministry.

Myanmar enacts first media law

Myanmar's government has enacted its first Media Law that would assure continued freedom currently enjoying by local media, after nearly five decades of censorship and harsh restrictions under military rule.

Information Ministry sources said Tuesday that President Thein Sein, a former army general who came to power following parliamentary elections in 2011, signed into law a related bill that approved by parliament earlier this month.

Young blood: Myanmar returners make a splash

Thazin Wah – Bo to friends and customers, and her customers are always her friends – arrives for work at 7am and leaves at 11pm. As the owner and sole employee of her small Thai restaurant, Green Gallery, which opened last November on 52nd Street, just steps from Maha Bandoola Road, the hours are long but necessary, and they bring their own rewards.

For Thazin, the job is a dream beginning to take shape. After 14 years living under a secret identity in Thailand, in April 2013 the 28-year-old returned to her native Myanmar – a path many others have and will follow.

Inle Lake: Burma's aquatic San Joaquin Valley

Inle Lake, sunk into a valley 2,800 feet above sea level in Burma's Shan state, is like the region's fertile San Joaquin Valley, producing a cornucopia of colorful vegetables in prolific amounts.

Tomatoes, cauliflower, beans, cucumbers, even flowers for offerings at local Buddhist temples all grow here. But instead of farmers tilling soil and planting seeds in the ground, the "farmers" of Inle Lake raise their crops on floating islands, built from underwater weeds dredged up from around the lake.

Questions over waste from YCDC electricity project

A plan to turn Yangon’s trash into electricity has hit a snag, with Yangon City Development Committee still unsure how to manage the potentially dangerous residual ash from two planned incinerators.

YCDC invited proposals from companies interested in generating electricity from municipal waste in 2012. South Korean company Chasson International won the tender for methane extraction, while local firm Zeya & Associates received the contract for garbage incineration.

Myanmar Seeks To Transform State Media Into Public Service Media

YANGON, March 18 (Bernama) -- Myanmar is seeking to transform its state-run media into a public service media in a bid to narrow the knowledge gap among the people.

Minister of Information U Aung Kyi said a bill had been submitted to the parliament's Lower House for approval, Xinhua news agency reported citing local press.

"The bill was drafted with the help of UNESCO to enable it to be in conformity with the principles of diversity of media pluralism," U Aung Kyi told the parliament Monday.

Reforms could put govt at risk of arbitration suits

Efforts by the European Union to push forward with an investor-state international arbitration agreement with the Myanmar government may backfire in the form of costly arbitral suits arising from new policies implemented on the back of the country’s expeditious reform agenda, experts said.

As of the start of the year, parliament announced it was moving forward with an ambitious schedule to debate some 40 legal acts and ancillary policies and by-laws, many of which are aimed at modernising business rules across all sectors, while simultaneously approving new amendments to existing legislation.

Myanmar embraces civil society

Myanmar is preparing for its largest regional civil society conference in decades, further evidence of its impressive engagement with the world.

The Asean Civil Society Conference/Asean Peoples’ Forum (ACSC/APF 2014) from March 21-23 in Yangon bears the theme “Advancing Asean Peoples’ Solidarity toward Sustainable Peace, Development, Justice and Democratisation”.

Malay firm gets partner JV for new rubber plant

Malaysian agribusiness firm Felda Global Ventures Holdings Berhad Co and locally based Pho La Min Trading Ltd (PLM) have entered into a joint-venture agreement to build a rubber processing plant in Taninthar­yi Region, the two firms announced last week.

The firms will spend an initial US$10 to $15 million on the plant, which will be built in Myeik and once finished will be able to produce a total 24,000 metric tonnes of rubber annually, said PLM chair, U Tun Tun Win, said during the announcement on March 8.

MWC, partner bag Myanmar project

The Ayala group is following through its foray into the overseas water business as its utility unit has signed a memorandum of understanding with a local government in Myanmar to help the latter reduce water losses.

Along with long-time Ayala partner Mitsubishi Corp., also a signatory to the MOU, Manila Water Co. Inc. was tapped to develop a proposed project on non-revenue water reduction for the Yangon City Development Committee (YCDC).

Non-revenue water refers to the volume from which a utility does not earn because the liquid is lost due to leaking pipes and illegal connections or because of inaccurate metering.

Rice exports to double in 5 years

Experts believe that rice exports will double to reach at least 3 million tonnes in the next five years despite posting underwhelming results thus far in the 2013-14 fiscal year.

With Myanmar expected to gain access to new markets with the lifting of tariffs, rice farmers are likely to begin diversifying where they choose to export goods, creating more sustainability in an industry currently challenged by smugglers in China, said Myanmar Rice Federation secretary general U Ye Min Aung.

EU to start investment pact talks with Myanmar this week

(Reuters) - The European Union will launch negotiations this week for an investment pact with Myanmar, the EU's top trade representative said on Monday, a deal aimed at giving European firms preferential access to one of Asia's final frontier markets.

Myanmar, an underdeveloped country closed off until 2012 to Western firms due to trade sanctions, is on the radar of many European companies seeking access to restricted sectors and guarantees against risks in an uncertain climate.

New Light of Myanmar (19 Mar 2014 - Wednesday)

The Mirror Daily (19 Mar 2014 - Wednesday)

Myanma Alinn Daily (19 Mar 2014 - Wednesday)

The Fine Print: Legal & Tax insight

Investors have asked us whether convertible loans are feasible in Myanmar, as they have proved to be in other emerging markets. A convertible loan entitles the lender to swap it, partially or entirely, for equity (stocks, ordinary shares, preference shares, etc) of the borrower by a certain deadline and at a pre-agreed conversion rate.

Can India Catch Up With China in Myanmar?

China has a powerful economic presence, but India has some historical and institutional strengths.

A recent visit to the city of Yangon underscored the increasing economic presence of China in Myanmar. The massive investment, pipelines, and rail strategyare well known, but a drive through the city is enough to make clear the extent to which China has boosted its economic foothold in the country.

WTO trade talks begin in Geneva

A goverment delegation led by deputy commerce minister U Pwint Sann met with officials from the World Trade Organization in Geneva last week to discuss how to bring Myanmar’s trading practices into line with the rest of the world, an official said.

U Maung Aung, an economic adviser to the ministry, said the delegation considered a range of ideas for reforms in banking, taxation, money transfers, the protection of small and medium-sized enterprises and anti-dumping measures.

Jaguar Land Rover rolls into growing Myanmar market

Myanmar is witnessing something that few people could have imagined just two or three years ago: New, high-end automobiles are starting to hit the roads as the economy of the once-shunned country gains momentum.

Most of the vehicles on the streets of Yangon and other major cities are still either second-hand imports or ancient cars that have been in service for one or two decades. But a showroom for the Jaguar and Land Rover brands will open a showroom in Insein township outside Yangon in May.

Tuesday, 18 March 2014

New tax law sees marked rate reductions

Parliament has approved changes to the tax law for the 2014-2015 year that will see many tax rates lowered and new tax breaks introduced as an incentive to reign in endemic tax evasion and illegal trade, officials said.

However industry insiders believe the lower rates will not be enough to change current practices.

On March 11, Pyidaungsu Hluttaw approved a draft on income and commercial tax rates as part of the 2014 Union Tax Law that aims to increase the tax to GDP ratio from between 3 and 4 percent to 4.5pc, a tax widening trend the government says will continue year on year.

Myanmar media: In sweet spot of transition

The landscape of media freedom in Southeast Asia shows a mix of government regimes and media systems. To provide a regional perspective is therefore a complex task.

The Freedom House Index ranks countries according to state of political and civic liberties available to citizens, along with a ranking of press freedom. The classifications are three: Free, Partly Free and Not Free states. Of the ten states in the ASEAN, no country is currently classified as Free. Only three make it as Partly Free: East Timor, Indonesia and the Philippines.

Asahi to enter Myanmar in new soft-drinks deal

Beverage manufacturer Loi Hein is to partner with the Japan-based Asahi group to form a major new soft-drinks company in Myanmar. Subject to approval by the Myanmar Investment Commission, Loi Hein would take 49 percent of the company, in which Asahi would invest about ¥2.3 billion (US$22 million) to acquire a controlling 51pc share.

U Sai Sam Tun, who founded Loi Hein in 1992, said he expected MIC approval within weeks.

Japanese foreign minister eyes visiting Bangladesh, Myanmar

Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida is planning to visit Bangladesh and Myanmar from March 21 to 25, government sources said Friday.

Kishida plans to hold talks with the countries' leaders and foreign ministers on how to promote economic cooperation, the sources said.

After meeting with Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina in Dhaka, Kishida plans to arrive in Myanmar on March 23 for talks with President Thein Sein and other senior officials.

Further delays expected as airport talks fall apart

Four international consortiums that once vied for a US$1 billion contract to build the new Hanthawaddy Airport in Bago have been asked to once again submit bids for the tender, further delaying construction, a spokesperson for the Department of Civil Aviation (DCA) confirmed last week.

South Korea’s Incheon Airport consortium won the tender for the contract to build the much anticipated new airport in August, with another consortium comprising of Singapore’s Changi Airport Planners, Yongnam Holdings Ltd and consortiums from France’s Vinci and Japan’s Taisei airports selected as backups.

Myanmar tries to nominate one more ancient city to world heritage list

Myanmar is trying to nominate the ancient city of Inwa to the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization's (UNESCO's) world heritage list in addition to three other Pyu city states, official media reported Sunday.

Noting that Myanmar has fulfilled the requirement for the nomination of the city with ancient pagodas and buildings, the New Light of Myanmar said the Inwa Cultural Heritage Zone near northern Mandalay must be preserved, quoting Minister of Culture U Aye Myint Kyu.

Arbitor slams UMEHL over foul play

A local arbitrator presiding over a dispute between military-backed Myanmar Economic Holdings Limited (UMEHL) and a commercial partner has publically accused the conglomerate of deliberately sabotaging the suit through a number of stunts geared toward terminating the proceedings.

In a notice published in the state-run New Light of Myanmar on March 12, the arbitrator handling a commercial dispute between UMEHL and TAG Company Limited over a joint-venture soap factory accused UMEHL of physically locking the arbitrator and TAG Co representatives out of the arbitration chamber ahead of a scheduled meeting as well as removing furniture from an arbitration room.

Myanmar's Rich Biodiversity Hangs in the Balance

Crimson-robed monks carrying parasols and rice bowls on the streets of Yangon now stroll past billboards for Coca-Cola (KO), Huawei (002502:CH) phones, and breezy dresses from Spanish fashion-brand Mango. Yet even as foreign brands and investors rush into Myanmar’s largest city, which is newly clogged with traffic, much of the country has yet to show clear signs of the political and economic transformation that began in 2011. Less than an hour’s drive outside Yangon, neighborhood streets are still unpaved, and 80 percent of Myanmar’s people still lack access to electricity.

Wanbao cannot manage waste from Letpadaungtaung project: ESIA

Myanmar Wanbao Mining Copper Limited (MWMCL), which runs the controversial Letpadaungtaung copper mine project, has no ability to clear up a huge amount of waste being generated during the project’s lifetime, according to the Environmental Social Impact Assessment (ESIA) submitted by Knight Piésold Consulting.

“The company has no ability to manage that. And would the government manage it? Myanmar’s ministries, such as mining and environmental preservation, have no capacity to do so. How will we face a danger that’s too big for the government and the company to manage?,” said Win Myo Thu from Eco-Dev.

Yoma aim to boost coffee production in Burma with a large scale investment

A Singapore-listed company has laid out plans that could revolutionise coffee production in Burma, Irrawaddy report.

Yoma Strategic Holdings Ltd. aim to develop what it says could be the largest plantation in the south-east Asian country which it is hoped could transform the currently tepid coffee industry.

Burma is well placed to become a leading nation when it comes to coffee production. Geographically advantageous, Burma’s potential reach that of neighbouring Vietnam who, in 2012, grew around 1.3m tons of coffee. Burma managed just 8,000 tons, with just fewer than 100 tons being exported to lucrative foreign markets.

Export earnings of jade more than triple

Export earnings for jade during the nine-month financial period from April to December of 2013 reached US$ 920 million (Ks 887.79 billion), according to the Ministry of National Planning and Economic Development. This amount is more than a third larger than last year’s overall earnings (more than US$ 600 million). Export earnings for the 2012-2013 fiscal year reached US$ 297 million.

Myanmar can export jade in July but not in April, May or June. The export earnings reached more than US$ 336 million in September, the top export earnings month for the year.

China-Myanmar Roundtable Conference on Peoples Exchanges kicks off in Myanmar

YANGON, March 13 -- The second China-Myanmar Roundtable Conference on Peoples'Exchanges kicked off here Thursday aimed at promoting people-to-people understandingbetween the two countries.

The one-day conference was held under the theme "Leveraging Livelihood of the People inMyanmar", highlighting approaches to enhancing people-to-people communicationbetween China and Myanmar, plan of action for practical cooperation between Chinese andMyanmar NGOs as well as non-governmental efforts for building a good environment insupport of China-Myanmar economic cooperation.

Gov’t to take action against bean price manipulators

Since bean varieties are among Myanmar’s largest exports, the government will take action against the manipulation of bean prices that affect market stability, according to U Win Myint , Union Minister for Economics and Trade.

The minister made the comment at a 20th anniversary gathering on Sunday (March 16) for the Myanmar Variegated Bean and Sesame Merchants Association, organised by the head of the Myanmar Traders and Industrialists Association.

Myanmar Rice Industry Expects Parboiled Rice Exports to Increase by Nine Times in FY 2014-15

Myanmar's parboiled rice exports are likely to surge to 300,000 tons in the fiscal year 2014-15 (April - March), up almost nine times from a mere 30,000 tons in 2013, according to the Myanmar Rice Industry Association (MRIA). The MRIA Chairman told Reuters that demand for Myanmar parboiled rice is increasing in the European markets, and most of the parboiled rice exports in FY 2013-14 were to the European Markets, mainly to Russia, which is seeing a decline in rice production. 

Loan disbursement to SMEs to be double in coming FY

YANGON—A total of Ks 20 billion will be disbursed to small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in the coming financial year (2014-2015), according to the Small and Medium Industrial Development Bank. Last year, the loan disbursement to SMEs amounted to K 10 billion.

The number of registered SMEs has reached over 64,000 while the number of unregistered SMEs is about 62,000.

Tourism in the ‘new’ Myanmar

Pictures of pagodas, Buddhist temples, palaces, parks, historical and cultural sites, friendly faces and innocent smiles of local people are flourishing on social media sites all over the world. They hold the promise of a new paradise for photographers and those with an adventurous spirit looking to discover the hidden charms of an undiscovered land.

The images of the “new” Myanmar are quickly crowding out memories of a country that just a few years ago was known as xenophobic and restrictive. For many travellers, especially in Western countries, visiting Myanmar was the height of political incorrectness. But the same place that limited visas and travel for decades is rebranding itself as the soul of hospitality.

A rainbow of hilltribes, precious stones, and sacred traditions

With its rich indigenous culture and proud history that includes its own tribal traditions of royal courts and ancestry, Shan State represents another of Myanmar’s mountainous regions and is arguably the country’s best place to live in perfect harmony with nature.


The largest state of Myanmar, accounting for one fourth of its land area, Shan State lies in the middle east of the country and is bordered by Kachin State and China to the north, Laos and Thailand to the east, Kayah State to the south and Sagaing and Mandalay regions to the west. Due to the movements of tectonic plates, the Shan highlands are characterized by stone layers including marble.

Sustaining Progress and Avoiding Emerging Market Volatility in Myanmar

After half a century of isolation, Myanmar’s immediate challenge is to sustain reforms, boost foreign investment and diversify its industrial base. Unlike other Asian tigers, it must cope with a far more challenging international environment.

Recent headlines from Myanmar have caused unease in the United States, Europe and Japan. While the controversies are social by nature, they have indirect economic implications.

Chinese assessments of Kyaukphyu-Kunming railroad project up for review

YANGON—The Ministry of Rail Transportation is now reviewing Chinese assessments for construction of the Kyaukphyu-Kunming railroad project, the ministry has confirmed.

Myanmar and China have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) for the project.

“We are now discussing matters on the Chinese data and the MoU after holding a formal meeting at the office. Although China will cover most of the costs for construction of the Kyaukphyu-Kunming railroad, the project will take about 50 years with the Build, Operate and Transfer system,” said a ministry official.

SCG's Myanmar plant to produce 2Mt/yr

Myanmar: Thailand's Siam Cement Group (SCG) aims to produce nearly 2Mt/yr of cement at its new plant in Myanmar once the US$400m plant starts operations in 2016.

"Our new plant in the country is expected to produce 5000t/day, which is about 2Mt/yr," said Chana Poomee, country director of SCG in Myanmar. "We see a lot of potential in Myanmar because we consider it an Asean 'mid-land.' There are very good opportunities here. We believe in the future of Myanmar, so we've decided to invest," he said. He noted that construction had progressed well, with full support from the government and Mon State.

New Light of Myanmar (18 Mar 2014 - Tuesday)

The Mirror Daily (18 Mar 2014 - Tuesday)

Myanma Alinn Daily (18 Mar 2014 - Tuesday)

Monday, 17 March 2014

The right foundation

OECD review urges government to continue regulatory reform

The government needs to continue its efforts to reform the regulatory framework and create a favourable investment environment to sustain economic development, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development has urged in its first investment policy review of Myanmar.

The review, which took about 18 months to complete, was officially released at a ceremony at in Nay Pyi Taw on March 1 and was the focus of a discussion held at Traders Hotel on March 4 attended by ministers, government officials, foreign investors and other interested parties.

Myanmar inspects Thai firm's juice for coliform

Thailand-based FoodStar's juice is subject to examination by Myanmar's food-safety authorities for alleged contamination with coliform and mould, Eleven Media reported.
According to lab results from the Myanmar Ministry of Cooperatives, samples of coliform and mould have been found in DeeDo juice.

If consumed, the inedible fungus in the food can cause massive intestinal and stomach cancers, said Ba Oak Khine, chairman of that country's Consumer Protection Association.

Burma Tax Department Says 2,500 Tax-Evading Firms Named in Error

RANGOON — The Burma government’s tax department has admitted that it mistakenly named nearly 2,500 companies as tax evaders.

The Internal Revenue Department (IRD) on March 6 published a list of 10,670 companies that it said had failed to pay taxes for the 2012-13 fiscal year, which ended in March 2013. The list included well known companies like Tay Za’s Asia Green Development (AGD) Bank and Serge Pun’s Yoma Bank.

Local knowledge and authenticity the keys to success

Planeloads of foreign travellers are shaking up the tourism and hospitality sector in Myanmar. Local hoteliers and tour operators must adapt to meet the coming boom and possible higher competition for international investors, who also aim to chase after the big inflow of tourism dollars.

“Being a local is already a brand in itself, without having to try so hard to create an identity. However, you now need to work very hard to deliver your service at its best,” Yinn Myo Su, managing director of Inle Princess Resort told Asia Focus during a recent interview in Yangon

UK accountants, Myanmar chambers of commerce ink development deal

YANGON—The UK-based Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA) and the Union of Myanmar Federation of Chambers of Commerce (UMFCCI) signed an agreement on Sunday (March 16) to cooperate in Myanmar’s financial and economic development tasks.

“We’ll sign the Memorandum of Understanding with the ACCA’s Singapore office,” said an official from the UMFCCI.

ASEAN-Japan comprehensive economic partnership meeting to be held in Myanmar

YANGON, March 14 (Xinhua) -- ASEAN-Japan comprehensive economic partnership meeting will be held in Nay Pyi Taw, the new capital of Myanmar, later this month, official sources said Friday.

The meeting, scheduled from March 17 to 21, will discuss a wide range of issues related to the implementation of a partnership agreement, as well as tax relaxation and commodities trade.

MAI to start its first flight to UAE in 2015

Myanmar Airways International (MAI) will fly its first flight to United Arab Emirates (UAE) in 2015, sources from MAI say.

“We have no arrangements to fly to UAE during this year. MAI is arranging the flights to UAE in 2015 to get market shares from Europe,” MAI’s marketing and public relations manager Aye Maya Thar said.

Before the agreement signed on Monday (March 10), Myanmar and UAE had no prior aviation treaty between them. In the new treaty, Myanmar lists MAI as an airline with permission to fly to UAE and UAE listed Emirates, RAK, Air Arabia and Aerovista airlines for flights to Myanmar.

Myanmar to support industrial zones for economic development

YANGON, March 13 (Xinhua)-- Myanmar Small and Medium Industrial Development Bank (SMIDB) is planning to lend 20 billion Kyats (20. 62 million U.S.dollars) to industries in the country in the next fiscal year 2014-15 which starts on April 1, official sources said Thursday.

SMIDB has already granted 10 billion Kyats to 62 Myanmar entrepreneurs, the sources said, adding that a total of 12 branch offices of the bank have been opened across the country.

S'pore serviced apartment chain plans expansion into Myanmar

Singaporean serviced apartment chain The Ascott Limited has announced moves to expand into Myanmar and increase its presence in Germany and Asia on Thursday.

The wholly-owned unit of developer CapitaLand said yesterday that it has won a contract to operate a 153-unit mixed-use development in Yangon.

The property - Somerset Kabar Aye Yangon - is a 15-minute drive from downtown Yangon and 30 minutes from the airport. It is due to open in early 2018 and will be Ascott's first outlet in Myanmar.

Matrade targets projects in Myanmar

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia External Trade Development Corp (Matrade) will be targeting various construction projects for Malaysian companies worth RM400 million in Myanmar.

In a statement yesterday, Matrade said these projects include residential, commercial, industrial parks and mixed development projects such as hotels, office buildings and shopping malls.

“Myanmar offers huge business potential and opportunities, especially in the infrastructure and property development sector. Reforms undertaken by Myanmar have impacted positively to its economy and enhance trade and investment flows within the country.

Singaporean telecoms companies to cooperate with license winners

Singaporean telecommunication companies including Myanmar Fibre Optic Communication Network Co. Ltd., Digicel Myanmar Tower Co. Ltd. and Apollo Towers Myanmar Limited based in Myanmar are working together with two license winners, Ooredoo and Telenor, to strengthen the telecommunication network in Myanmar, sources say.

They have been granted the permission in Myanmar Investment Commission (MIC) (8/2014) meeting held at March 3.

Private Myanmar newspapers struggle to stay afloat

YANGON, Myanmar — With tears in his eyes, the chief editor scoured the last-ever edition of his newspaper before sending the proofread copy to the printing press. His once-bustling newsroom was quiet. Some reporters cleared their desks while others tried to cheer up their boss with words of gratitude, or even some homemade pork stew.

Khin Maung Lay is one of many Myanmar journalists who last year embraced the chance to produce independent daily newspapers free from censorship for the first time in five decades. It was not the government that shut him down, but economics: His paper and others have been losing money as they struggle to compete with state-owned papers for advertisers and circulation.

Myanmar-India border route reopened

KALAY—The Myanmar-India border route reopened on Tuesday a month after closing, according to Win Tin from the Tamu Traders Association.

“They [India] opened the gate today [March 11]. Wheat was brought from India while Myanmar brought betel nuts. The goods from Myanmar have already been purchased by the Indian traders,” said Win Tin.

“It is impossible that Myanmar traders will show losses once the trade route is reopened. Traders from both countries have suffered since it was closed.”

EEPC India organises trade fair in Myanmar

Aiming to forge business ties with Myanmar and tap opportunities in the mineral-rich nation's market, engineering exporters body EEPC India today kicked off the 'Indee' exhibition in Yangon.

"Indee Myanmar attempts to build a holistic relationship with the Myanmar industry, particularly in the engineering sector," Minister of State for Commerce & Industry E M S Natchiappan said in an official statement.
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