Myanmar Update: August 31, 2018

Myanmar Update | August 31, 2018
Authors: Jack Myint and Monica Chritton
 
LOOKING AHEAD
 
 
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THE COUNCIL'S TAKE
 
 

U.N. Human Rights Council Releases Damning Report on Myanmar; Facebook Bans Senior Military Officials from its Platform

On August 27, the United Nations Human Rights Council released a damning report issued by the U.N. Fact Finding Mission on Myanmar calling for investigation and prosecution of Myanmar’s top military leaders in the International Criminal Court (I.C.C.). The report cites sufficient information of crimes against humanity and war crimes in Rakhine, Kachin and Shan States.

Key observations of the U.N. Report:

  • This is the U.N.’s most pointed condemnation released to date. The U.N. is calling for the indictment Commander-in-Chief Senior General Min Aung Hlaing along with five other senior commanders of the Tatmadaw (Myanmar’s military)--prior condemnations have been limited to the operational leadership level, and Senior General Min Aung Hlaing has not yet been called out by-name at the U.N. or sanctioned by any foreign governments.
  • The U.N. report is extending some of the responsibility for the humanitarian crisis on State Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and Facebook. The U.N. points to Daw Aung San Suu Kyi for not using her position as head of the civilian government or her moral authority as an international figure and Nobel laureate to prevent the humanitarian crisis. The report also called Facebook an instrument used to spread hate speech.
  • This is the first time the U.N. has officially used the term “genocide” to determine the situation in Myanmar.

Neighboring ASEAN Nations have responded. Malaysia’s Foreign Minister Datuk Saifuddin Abdullah said the U.N. Report bear resemblance to genocides committed in the past and that the Myanmar Government has primary responsibility to take action against the perpetrators of the crimes committed in the Rakhine State. Earlier in August, 132 ASEAN MPs demanded an I.C.C. investigation of Myanmar. ASEAN as a collective entity itself, however, remains committed to its principle of non-interference in the domestic political affairs of any member nation and other than expressing concern, have not threatened any action.

Hours after the U.N. report’s release, Facebook announced it banned 20 individuals and organizations and removed 46 pages and 12 accounts in Myanmar. Facebook said in a press release that action was in response to evidence that these individuals and organizations have “committed or enabled serious human rights abuses.” Among the banned accounts are Senior General Min Aung Hlaing and the five other generals named in the U.N. report. The banned pages were followed by nearly 12 million people. This is the first time Facebook has banned any country’s political or military leaders and closes a key channel of official communication for the Tatmadaw. General Min Aung Hlaing appeared to respond by creating a new social media page on Russian social media site VK a day after the U.N. report. See the official Facebook press release here.

This unprecedented move follows months of international criticism by both local and international NGOs. In April, Myanmar activists representing six civil organizations wrote an open letter to Mark Zuckerberg saying that Facebook has failed to interfere in stopping the spread of hate speech in Myanmar and was culpable for violence in the country. Zuckerberg replied to the open letter, outlining several initiatives the company is taking to better monitor abuse, false content and hate speech. Zuckerberg also assured the activists that Facebook was committed to addressing their concerns.

The United States and the European Union have commented on the U.N. report. The U.S. Department State is currently completing its own separate report on allegations of human rights atrocities in Myanmar. On August 25, Secretary of State Michael Pompeo said in a Tweet that the United States would “continue to hold those responsible accountable” for “abhorrent ethnic cleansing of ethnic Rohingya in Burma.” The European Union’s executive will meet this week with the U.N. report authors and a spokeswoman for the European Commission said those responsible for the alleged human rights violation “must be held to account”.

The U.N. Report could mean further international sanctions imposed on Myanmar. The United States placed sanctions on several Tatmadaw commanders and two entire military units for “engaging in serious human rights abuse” earlier in August. The European Union and Canada have also imposed sanctions against specific officials. See our recent Analysis of Myanmar’s sanctions landscape here.

Looking ahead, and in the context of U.S. business interests, the few weeks after the State Department report comes out will be key in determining the direction of U.S. Myanmar policy. It remains unclear when U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo plans to issue the full U.S. report. If the report follows in the direction of the U.N., and labels the situation in Rakhine to be “genocidal” and implicate part of the blame to the civilian government, the concurring policy actions will most likely mean broader economic sanctions, or additions to the Global Magnitsky List. Ambassador Nikki Haley said before the U.N. Security Council that the U.S. report was “consistent” with the U.N. report findings, but did not use the term “genocide”. Currently, the terminology used by the U.S. government to describe the situation in Rakhine is “ethnic cleansing”, which the human rights community has deemed insufficient and called for an upgrade to “crimes against humanity” or “genocide”.

 
IN THIS UPDATE
 
 
Regional Affairs
Can Myanmar Afford China’s Belt and Road?
Why Myanmar is concerned about Chinese investment

National Affairs
New Rakhine panel starts work
Military Chief Wastes No Time Finding New Home on Social Media
Faulted by U.N. Over Rohingya, Suu Kyi Finds Herself Bound to Army
Aung San Suu Kyi won't be stripped of Nobel Peace Prize: committee
Myanmar dam overflow displaces thousands
Myanmar brands UN genocide accusations as ‘false allegations’
Myanmar Govt Rejects UN Report on Military Human Rights Violations
UN fact-finding mission seeks prosecution of Tatmadaw leaders
Tatmadaw chief banned from Facebook
Government Quickly Distances Itself from Facebook Bans on Military
Judge's health delays Reuters verdict
Pompeo Decries ‘Abhorrent Ethnic Cleansing' in Myanmar
Myanmar’s state-owned enterprises show how much reform is still needed
Domestic businesses need to lobby govt to liberalise economy

Customs
Govt calls for crack-down on illegal border trading
More taxes to be levied on alcohol, cigarettes

Economics
Kyat stabilises after CBM pumps US$4 million into economy
Can the NLD government halt the slide in the value of the kyat?
Ten Reasons Behind Myanmar’s Economic Slump
Economy increasingly disappointing as govt approaches half-term
Economic outlook negative: UMFCCI
FDI Drops $900M in 2017-18 Fiscal Year
Operators unfazed as Myanmar slows
Budget deficit reaches record high, yet SOE money remains untouched
Myanmar clarifies foreign ownership rules for retail sector
Action urged to shore up Myanmar exporters
Myanmar takes steps towards reform

Energy
130 MW solar project announced in Myanmar
Govt urged to tap clean energy | Eleven Myanmar
Hydropower is back
Myanmar scales back Chinese-backed port project over debt fears
Electricity access in Myanmar lowest within Asean: energy expert

Financial Services
Myanmar: State-owned insurer to cover thousands of homes
Foreign insurers will be allowed to operate locally by 2018-19: IBRB
Latest inclusion roadmap targets digital financial services
Businesspeople Urge State Counselor to Reduce Tax And Loan Interest Rates
Myanmar: Insurers allowed to sell short term endowment policies
Many are ready to move on from cash

Food & Agriculture
Fish farms explore new breeding options on rising costs

Health & Life Sciences
Medicos discuss rising trend of people seeking treatment abroad

ICT
IRD to build ICT system enabling tax payments

Infrastructure
Parami builds mini-grids for Yesagyo community
New Sittwe port proposed to facilitate Myanmar-Bangladesh trade
Myitkyina to create as economic development zone

Travel & Tourism
Bagan Earthquake Repairs Will Take ‘Longer than Expected’
 
ARTICLE CLIPS
 
 
Regional Affairs

Can Myanmar Afford China’s Belt and Road? The Diplomat 29th Aug 2018
Two years after the Belt and Road Summit in Beijing, Myanmar seems ready to be integrated into Beijing’s Belt and Road Initiative via the China-Myanmar Economic Corridor (CMEC) — despite criticisms and concern over a potential debt trap. A 1,700-plus kilometer corridor stretching from Kunming, the capital of Yunnan province in China, to the seaport at Kyaukpyu in Myanmar’s Rakhine state, CMEC will be one of the largest single packages of foreign direct investment in Myanmar in decades, and the government in Naypyitaw is anticipating a quick economic lift.

Why Myanmar is concerned about Chinese investment Mizzima 2nd Aug 2018
I write in response to an article published here by an assistant fellow at the One Belt-One Road Strategy Institute of Tsinghua University. In my opinion, the article misread the true situation in Myanmar and might unintentionally jeopardize the reform agenda of the National League for Democracy (NLD) government, particularly in regard to economic development and infrastructure.

National Affairs

New Rakhine panel starts work The Myanmar Times 29th Aug 2018
An independent commission established to investigate alleged human rights abuses in northern Rakhine State starts work today, amid an international call for the prosecution of senior Tatmadaw (military) officials over alleged genocide and crimes against humanity in the state. Philippine senior diplomat Rosario Manalo, who heads the panel, will meet later today in Nay Pyi Taw with the three other commission members to discuss details of how to go about the investigation. The panel is expected to issue their findings within a year.

Military Chief Wastes No Time Finding New Home on Social Media The Irrawaddy 29th Aug 2018
Less than 48 hours after the Myanmar military chief’s Facebook account was shut down, a similar page appeared on VKontakte (VK), Russia’s most popular social networking service. The new page had already attracted more than 2,000 followers as of Wednesday. The page “Senior General Min Aung Hlaing” — the same name as the old Facebook page — featured posts on the latest activities of the military boss, including the senior general’s Wednesday visit to Bago Region’s Swar Township to observe the severe flooding situation there and inspect an Army-constructed bridge.

Faulted by U.N. Over Rohingya, Suu Kyi Finds Herself Bound to Army Wall Street Journal 29th Aug 2018
The assessment leaves Ms. Suu Kyi in a fraught relationship with the military as each blames the other for a worsening situation that could unravel its effort to open up to the West. Both sides have been careful not to upset the country’s delicate constitutional balance, under which the army enjoys control of home and defense ministries but none of the responsibility for health, education and other difficult-to-provide public services.

Aung San Suu Kyi won't be stripped of Nobel Peace Prize: committee Reuters 29th Aug 2018
The Nobel Peace Prize to Aung San Suu Kyi will not be withdrawn in the light of a United Nations report that said Myanmar’s military carried out mass killings of Muslim Rohingya, the Norwegian Nobel Committee said on Wednesday. On Monday, U.N. investigators said Myanmar’s military carried out mass killings and gang rapes with “genocidal intent”, and the commander-in-chief and five generals should be prosecuted for the gravest crimes under international law. Aung San Suu Kyi, who leads the Myanmar government and won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991 for campaigning for democracy, has been criticized for failing to speak out against the army crackdown in Rakhine State.

Myanmar dam overflow displaces thousands The Business Times 29th Aug 2018
A major effort was under way to reach thousands of people trapped in their homes after a dam swollen by monsoon rain overflowed early Wednesday in central Myanmar, officials said. A surge of water inundated the rural flatland in Bago region after the Swar Chaung dam spillway, which regulates the release of water, collapsed due to heavy seasonal rain. AFP reporters in Kayin village described how some people waded through chest-deep water to get to higher ground.

Myanmar brands UN genocide accusations as ‘false allegations’ Financial Times 29th Aug 2018
The Myanmar government has rejected a UN report that called for the country’s military leadership to be prosecuted for genocide and crimes against humanity, insisting that these are “false allegations”.

Myanmar Govt Rejects UN Report on Military Human Rights Violations The Irrawaddy 28th Aug 2018
A spokesperson of the Myanmar government has rejected the UN fact-finding mission’s report which calls for genocide charges against the country’s military leadership for attacking Muslim Rohingya and which also blames the country’s de facto leader Daw Aung San Suu Kyi for failing to intervene. The UN Human Rights Council released its ‘Report of the Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar’ on Monday. The council set up the mission in March 2017 based on its resolution “to establish the facts and circumstances of the alleged recent human rights violations by military and security forces, and abuses, in Myanmar, in particular in Rakhine State.’

UN fact-finding mission seeks prosecution of Tatmadaw leaders The Myanmar Times 28th Aug 2018
A United Nations fact-finding team on Monday urged the government of Myanmar to investigate and prosecute the country’s top military leaders for alleged genocide in the northern Rakhine State. The mission said in its report released yesterday that senior Tatmadaw (military) leaders must also be investigated and prosecuted for crimes against humanity and war crimes in Rakhine, Kachin and Shan states, where it is waging decades-old battles against ethnic armed groups. The Mission, established by the UN Human Rights Council in March 2017, said it found patterns of gross human rights violations and abuses committed in Kachin, Rakhine and Shan States that “undoubtedly amount to the gravest crimes under international law, principally by… the Tatmadaw, but also by other security forces."

Tatmadaw chief banned from Facebook The Myanmar Times 28th Aug 2018
Tatmadaw Commander-in-chief Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, together with 19 other individuals and organisations in Myanmar, has been banned from using Facebook and Instagram. Their accounts and Pages on the social media platform have been removed to "prevent them from using our service to further inflame ethnic and religious tensions," the California-headquartered company said today. In response to the ban, a total of 18 Facebook accounts, one Instagram account and 52 Facebook Pages, followed by almost 12 million people, were taken down. But data on the accounts and Pages will be preserved by the social media firm. Specifically, Facebook has removed 46 Pages and 12 accounts for "engaging in coordinated inauthentic behaviour". 

Government Quickly Distances Itself from Facebook Bans on Military The Irrawaddy 28th Aug 2018
The government moved quickly on Monday to deny that it had any role in or advance knowledge of Facebook’s decision to ban the pages and accounts of several senior Myanmar military officials including Army chief Senior General Min Aung Hlaing. Speaking to reporters in Naypyitaw late on Monday evening, President’s Office spokesperson U Zaw Htay said that soon after Facebook made the announcement, he received calls from military officials, including a number of lieutenant-generals, asking if he had any information about the account closures.

Judge's health delays Reuters verdict BBC News 27th Aug 2018
A court in Myanmar has delayed its ruling on two Reuters journalists accused of violating a state secrets act while investigating violence against Rohingyas. An official said the verdict would now be given on 3 September, owing to the judge's poor health. Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo were arrested last year while carrying official documents given to them by police. The men, who deny all charges, face up to 14 years in jail if found guilty. Both men have been in jail since December.

Pompeo Decries ‘Abhorrent Ethnic Cleansing' in Myanmar Voice of America 26th Aug 2018
The United States will continue to hold accountable those responsible for what he described as the "abhorrent ethnic cleansing" of Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Saturday. Pompeo's statement came on the one year anniversary of the conflict in western Myanmar’s Rakhine state that drove more than 700,000 Rohingya from their homes into neighboring Bangladesh.

Myanmar’s state-owned enterprises show how much reform is still needed The Economist 4th Aug 2018
When Myanmar moved from military dictatorship to a form of democracy, its new government embarked on a series of reforms. Since 2011 it has passed at least two dozen laws related to the economy. Foreign investment, much of it from China, has helped the economy to grow at around 7% a year. But it remains one of the region’s poorest countries. And vast swathes of the economy remain untouched.

Domestic businesses need to lobby govt to liberalise economy The Myanmar Times 3rd Aug 2018
The Myanmar government recently appointed a competent finance minister and decided to retain the central bank governor. These appointments and changes warrant a review of how the executive has done so far. It is a tricky task to evaluate Nay Pyi Taw’s performance in economic management without mixing with the broader political landscape. It is almost impossible to separate the two. The ongoing humanitarian crisis in northern Rakhine State, in particular, has dominated newspaper headlines across the international media and dictated the narrative of the country. The subsequent diplomatic and political crises are not helped by the fact that the civilian government has done little to proactively communicate its positions, concerns and intentions to the wider world. 

Customs

Govt calls for crack-down on illegal border trading The Myanmar Times 30th Aug 2018
The government has begun an organised crack-down on illegal border trade at Kachin, Shan, Mon, Kayah and Kayin, which border China and Thailand, after orders were given to the relevant ministries to establish special task forces for the purpose, vice president U Myint Swe said at the (UMFCCI) on August 24. Arrangements are also being made for similar operations to take place in Tanintharyi region in the south, near Thailand, and Rakhine State, which shares the border with Bangladesh in the north.

More taxes to be levied on alcohol, cigarettes The Myanmar Times 28th Aug 2018
The government has submitted its Union Taxation Bill for the 2018-2019 fiscal year, which includes higher tax rates on alcohol and cigarettes, to the Pyidaungsu Hluttaw. Under the new bill, which will take effect starting October 1, taxes for alcohol and cigarettes will be raised to adjust for inflation and GDP growth, said U Maung Maung Win, deputy minister of the Ministry of Planning and Finance. “This will also help the government generate more tax revenues,” he said in Parliament on August 24.

Economics

Kyat stabilises after CBM pumps US$4 million into economy The Myanmar Times 30th Aug 2018
The dollar tapered against the kyat on August 16 after the Central Bank of Myanmar (CBM) sold a record US$4 million to local private banks. That helped ground the exchange rate, which is up by around 10 percent since May. To place a floor under the depreciating kyat, the CBM has sold US$100,000 per day to private banks since July 27. When those attempts failed to stabilise the exchange rate, the Central Bank raised its daily dollar sales to $1.6 million on August 15 and $4 million August 16, which is a total of $5.6 million pumped into the economy in two days.

Can the NLD government halt the slide in the value of the kyat? Frontier Myanmar 30th Aug 2018
The kyat been falling in value against the US dollar in recent months. On July 25, it slumped to K1,427, its lowest point for the year, at authorised foreign exchange dealers. This was down from K1,300 to the greenback in early June. The depreciation of the kyat against the dollar came as the US currency appreciated against other currencies on international markets. It’s not so much of a problem if the dollar is rising in value on international markets. But if it is because of the weakness of the kyat, it’s a problem for many sectors of the economy. A stable kyat is important for Myanmar’s economic development.

Ten Reasons Behind Myanmar’s Economic Slump The Irrawaddy 30th Aug 2018
A recent business sentiment survey of the second quarter of 2018 outlined ten main reasons why Myanmar’s businesses are facing worse conditions now compared to the two previous years. Nearly 1,500 businesses from the service, manufacturing and trade sectors contributed to the survey which was conducted by the Republic of the Union of Myanmar Federation of Chambers of Commerce and Industry (UMFCCI).

Economy increasingly disappointing as govt approaches half-term The Myanmar Times 30th Aug 2018
Even against more realistic benchmarks, the government has underperformed on the peace process, governance and the economy, International Crisis Group said. The Asian Development Bank expected Myanmar's GDP to grow by 6.8 percent in 2018 and by 7.2pc in 2019. Yet Nay Pyi Taw has come under fire from both local businesses and foreign investors for perpetuating protectionism and failing to deliver economic reforms. Surveys conducted by business groups revealed that business confidence has plummeted.

Economic outlook negative: UMFCCI The Myanmar Times 28th Aug 2018
Myanmar’ economy is in worse shape this year compared to 2017 and 2016, according to the Business Sentiment Survey for the second quarter of 2018 conducted by the Union of Myanmar Federation of Chambers of Commerce and Industry (UMFCCI) . The results of survey were released during 2nd B4B Insights Forum organised by UMFCCI on August 25 and 26. Survey results for the first quarter of the year were released in May.

FDI Drops $900M in 2017-18 Fiscal Year The Irrawaddy 27th Aug 2018
Foreign direct investment (FDI) into Myanmar declined by nearly US$900 million in the 2017-18 fiscal year compared to the previous fiscal year, according to chairman of the Myanmar Investment Commission (MIC) U Thaung Tun. “Despite the drop in investment volume, the number of foreign investors and invested businesses increased,” U Thaung Tun said as he explained the MIC for 2017-18 fiscal year report on Friday in Parliament.

Operators unfazed as Myanmar slows The Nation 27th Aug 2018
Young entrepreneurs in Myanmar remain upbeat on the country’s economic outlook despite weakening of the kyat, high inflation and delay to reform. “It is not good if you look at the exchange rate. The kyat is retreating against the US dollar and Thai baht, We are in a unstable period,” May Mon Thu, managing director and founder of Mamper Co, a marketing firm in Yangon, told The Nation.

Budget deficit reaches record high, yet SOE money remains untouched The Myanmar Times 8th Aug 2018
The government’s budget deficit in the upcoming 2018-19 fiscal year has reached the highest over the last seven years. Economists said this record-breaking deficit needs to be addressed, together with a range of other issues, such as the inflation rate, the Kyat’s depreciation and the slowing down of economic growth. Otherwise, the population will feel the squeeze. Finance minister U Soe Win submitted the government’s budget for 2018-19 fiscal year to the Pyidaungsu Hluttaw on July 23.

Myanmar clarifies foreign ownership rules for retail sector Nikkei Asian Review 7th Aug 2018
Myanmar has opened its doors to foreign ownership of local wholesalers and retailers to spur employment and urbanization, recently clearing up rules whose vagueness left some overseas companies hesitant to take the opportunity. Under rules the Ministry of Commerce announced in May, foreign companies that seek to take more than an 80% stake in domestic retailers will have to make an initial investment of at least $3 million, while smaller stakes require at least $700,000. They can not own stores smaller than 929 sq. meters, to avoid competition with small local businesses.

Action urged to shore up Myanmar exporters The Nation 7th Aug 2018
Myanmar's government has been urged to rein in the rise of the kyat and ease the impact of a decline in export competitiveness on the country’s manufacturing and agricultural sectors. The economy could be in deep trouble, if the exchange rate continues to appreciate against the US dollar, said U Myint, who served as the chief presidential economic adviser in the previous government On Sunday, the market rate set one US dollar at 1,462 kyats, 120 kyats higher than the currency was trading in July.

Myanmar takes steps towards reform The Myanmar Times 7th Aug 2018
For close to eight years, Myanmar has been on a journey of economic, social and political reform as it rejoins the world economy after decades of isolation under ruinous military rule. As one of the fastest growing economies in Asia with a sizeable young population and rich natural resources, the country of 53 million has the potential to play a pivotal role as the global economic pendulum swings from West to East. The challenge for Myanmar now is to seek ways to fully benefit from globalisation, as less developed countries with weak links to the global economy risk falling behind, according to U Thaung Tun, chairman of the Myanmar Investment Commission (MIC).

Energy

130 MW solar project announced in Myanmar pv magazine Australia 30th Aug 2018
Thailand-based Modern Energy Management (MEM) says it has teamed up with an undisclosed investor to develop a 130 MWp solar PV project in Myanmar. It is expected to come online in Q4 2019. Overall, the country is said to have a large-scale solar pipeline totaling 1.5 GW. The renewable energy advisory firm will reportedly help develop one of Myanmar’s first large-scale solar PV projects, after partnering with an unnamed investor. According to a statement released, MEM will share development risk with the client, and has already aided in location scouting for the project, which it says will be online by Q4 2019.

Govt urged to tap clean energy | Eleven Myanmar Eleven Myanmar 15th Aug 2018
Given that only 30 per cent of the population in Myanmar has access to electricity, the government must optimise its abundant natural resources to implement green energy projects in order to solve its power crisis, says Shoon So Oo, energy programme manager at World Wildlife Fund Myanmar. “For Myanmar’s economy to go further, we must encourage industrialisation, which means we are in urgent need of more electricity. Clean energy is the cheapest option, and this trend will continue in the future thanks to technology advancements,” he said.

Hydropower is back Frontier Myanmar 9th Aug 2018
After announcing high-profile gas-fired power projects earlier this year, the Ministry of Electricity and Energy is now focusing on a string of hydropower dams – most with Western developers – to meet Myanmar’s growing energy needs. At a ceremony in Nay Pyi Taw on July 5, the Ministry of Electricity and Energy signed a power purchase agreement with Great Hor Kham Public Co, Ltd for the Nam Paw hydropower project in northern Shan State.

Myanmar scales back Chinese-backed port project over debt fears The Guardian 2nd Aug 2018
Myanmar has scaled back plans for a Chinese-backed port on its western coast, sharply reducing the cost of the project after concerns it could leave the south-east Asian nation heavily indebted, a top government official and an adviser told Reuters. The Kyaukpyu port is a key part of China’s ambitious Belt and Road initiative, aimed at expanding trade links across the world. While Beijing says Belt and Road is mutually beneficial for it and its partners, questions have been raised about countries taking on excessive debt to build projects.

Electricity access in Myanmar lowest within Asean: energy expert Eleven Myanmar 1st Aug 2018
Myo Myint, an energy expert from the World Bank, says that access to electricity in Myanmar stands at the lowest in the Asean countries. He claimed so at the dissemination workshop for the Multi-Tier Framework (MTF) global survey in Myanmar held in Thigaha Hotel in Nay Pyi Taw on July 31. “It is so sadden to know that getting electricity in Myanmar is the lowest in Asean nations. According to the survey, about 70 percent of households in Myanmar gets electricity from national grid and outside of national grid for at least 2 to 3 hours per day,” said energy expert Myo Myint.

Financial Services

Myanmar: State-owned insurer to cover thousands of homes Asia Insurance Review 30th Aug 2018
Myanmar's state-owned insurer has signed an agreement with a consortium of local and foreign companies to provide insurance to buyers of government-built housing units. The insurance will be available on thousands of housing units, with the government planning to build and sell up to one million homes over the next few decades, reports Frontier Myanmar.

Foreign insurers will be allowed to operate locally by 2018-19: IBRB The Myanmar Times 29th Aug 2018
The Insurance Business Regulatory Board (IBRB) will allow foreign insurance companies to do business in the country in the new 2018-19 fiscal year, which will commence October 1, U Zaw Naing, the board’s secretary, said on August 28. He said the IBRB, which was established by the Ministry of Planning and Finance in 2016, will allow foreign insurance companies to provide life and general insurance policies in 2018-19. “We are planning to allow foreigners to participate in the domestic insurance market. We will hire international consultants to help us screen and review foreign insurance providers before permitting them to compete in the market,” U Zaw Naing said.

Latest inclusion roadmap targets digital financial services The Myanmar Times 29th Aug 2018
“The digital services working group members will be drawn from the private sector, such as insurance firms, private banks and micro-finance institutions. We will allow product by product [one by one] regarding digital finance. We are latecomers for the cashless financial market, which other countries have already developed.”

Businesspeople Urge State Counselor to Reduce Tax And Loan Interest Rates The Irrawaddy 29th Aug 2018
Leading businesspeople urged State Counselor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi to reduce tax and bank loan interest rates during a meeting in the administrative capital Naypyitaw on Tuesday. Potential investors are maintaining a wait-and-see attitude and Myanmar’s economy is experiencing a slowdown, said leading builder U Maung Weik. Reducing bank loan interest and tax rates will attract investors, he said. “As the interest rate on bank loans is 13 percent, businesses find it hard to profit. There is a need to reduce this rate temporarily to 8 or 9 percent. We believe many investors will come back into the market then,” said U Maung Weik.

Myanmar: Insurers allowed to sell short term endowment policies Asia Insurance Review 10th Aug 2018
Insurance companies in Myanmar including state-owned Myanma Insurance and 12 private insurers have been allowed to provide short term endowment life insurance policies as part of their product portfolios, said Daw Sandar Oo, chair of Myanmar Insurance Association (MIA) and managing director of Myanma Insurance. On 3 August, Grand Guardian Insurance (GGI) became the first insurer to offer short term endowment life insurance in Myanmar, reports Myanmar Times.

Many are ready to move on from cash The Myanmar Times 10th Aug 2018
The majority of people in Myanmar wish to have access to banking services and cashless payment methods, such as credit and ATM cards, mobile payments, contactless payments and payment via QR codes, according to Visa’s Financial Education for Sustainable Growth Study. The report, conducted recently in Myanmar by payments technology firm Visa, is part of an effort by the company to understand the perceptions, attitudes and behaviours of Myanmar people on money, banking and payments.

Food & Agriculture

Fish farms explore new breeding options on rising costs The Myanmar Times 8th Aug 2018
One of the main problems for the fisheries sector is rising prices of fish feed, which is made from bran. Currently, bran prices are at their highest level in five years. At K650 per viss, bran prices are 30 percent higher than previous years, said U Thet Muu, chair of the Myanmar Fish and Prawn Feed Manufacturers Association.  Meanwhile, export demand from Saudi Arabia has tumbled since the Saudi Food and Drug Authority (SFDA) in April suspended temporarily fish and prawn imports from Vietnam, Myanmar, Bangladesh, and India.

Health & Life Sciences

Medicos discuss rising trend of people seeking treatment abroad The Myanmar Times 29th Aug 2018
U Aung Tun Thet, a retired UN senior adviser and chief coordinator of Union Enterprise, said the increasing number of patients going abroad causes an outflow of foreign money that should instead go into the country’s economy.  “The number of patients who prefer to get medical treatment abroad is rising. They go to foreign countries because they do not trust hospitals here,” he told a discussion on rebuilding trust in the country’s healthcare profession in Bahan township, Yangon Region, on the weekend.  U Aung Tun Thet said that government records show that the number of people seeking service abroad rose to 120,082 in 2015, up from 110,839 in 2014 and 102,156 in 2013. In 2008, only 70,500 patients went abroad to seek medical treatment.   

ICT

IRD to build ICT system enabling tax payments The Myanmar Times 14th Aug 2018
Taxpayers may soon be able to pay their dues to the government via mobile banking, said U Min Htut, director general of the Internal Revenue Department (IRD). The IRD is now inviting qualified service providers including the banks and mobile money service operators to submit Expressions of Interest (EOI) to develop an information and communications technology (ICT) system which will enable taxpayers to use mobile banking to pay their monthly commercial and special goods taxes as well as quarterly income taxes.

Infrastructure

Parami builds mini-grids for Yesagyo community The Myanmar Times 29th Aug 2018
When completed, the project will be the largest mini-grid system in the country, according to U Pyi Wa Tun, Parami’s CEO. The project will involve US$1.6 million investment, with 60 percent of the funding coming from the World Bank, via the rural development department. The mini-grid will have its own generator, supported by a combination of solar and fuel energy. The firm signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) in 2016 with French electric utility giant EDF and the Magwe regional government to explore the project’s feasibility. EDF subsequently decided not to go ahead but Parami remains committed.  Myanmar’s challenge in providing its population access to reliable and affordable power lies with expanding the national grid. However, for many communities living in remote areas, the hope of accessing the main grid will not materialise for years, if not decades. 

New Sittwe port proposed to facilitate Myanmar-Bangladesh trade The Myanmar Times 29th Aug 2018
To facilitate trade in Rakhine State, U Tin Aung Oo, chair of Rakhine State Federation of Chamber of Commerce and Industries, last week proposed the construction of a new port in Sittwe during a meeting with the vice president. He said the port, which should be able to handle vessels of up to 20,000 tonnes, could be constructed under a Public Private Partnership (PPP). The proposal was met with approval from the government. The proposal comes after a surge in the volume of goods handled in Sittwe over the past five years. According to statistics from the Ministry of Transport and Communication, the volume of cargo handled at Sittwe rose to some 350,000 tonnes in 2017-18 from 200,000 tonnes in 2013-14. However, the flow of goods bound for Yangon from Sittwe is just 37,000 tonnes, which is around one tenth of the volume at Sittwe.

Myitkyina to create as economic development zone Eleven Myanmar 15th Aug 2018
Union Minister for Commerce Dr. Than Myint said that an economic development zone will be created in Myitkyina. The zone will be established in Myitkyina, the capital and largest city of Kachin state with agricultural and produce section given priority and value added goods will be produced, according to Dr. Than Myint.

Travel & Tourism

Bagan Earthquake Repairs Will Take ‘Longer than Expected’ The Irrawaddy 29th Aug 2018
The Bagan branch of the Department of Archaeology, National Museum and Library said the renovation of earthquake-hit temples and pagodas in the Bagan archaeological zone of central Myanmar will take more time than expected to complete. A 6.8 magnitude earthquake hit Bagan on Aug. 24, 2016, and damaged almost 400 of the area’s 3,252 pagodas. Although the restoration of more than 200 pagodas with minor damage was completed within two years of the quake, ones that suffered major damage like Sulamani and Thatbyinnyu are still being repaired.