Myanmar Update: September 27, 2018

Myanmar Update | September 27, 2018
Authors: Riley Smith, Jack Myint and Monica Chritton
 
LOOKING AHEAD
 
 

October 11-12: Business Mission to the 40th ASEAN Ministerial Meeting on Agriculture and Forestry (AMAF): During the week of October 8, the Council will organize its Business Mission to the 40th ASEAN Ministerial Meeting on Agriculture and Forestry (AMAF) in Hanoi, Vietnam. The Council has been invited to conduct a 20-30-minute presentation addressed to the Senior Officials and Agriculture Ministers. The Council is also planning to conduct individual bilateral meetings with Ministers from ASEAN countries such as Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam, as well as explore inaugural engagements with dialogue partners China, Japan, and South Korea. Other potential activities on the agenda include a networking session with international multilateral institutions and attendance at AMAF's official opening ceremony, gala dinner and field trips. For more information, please contact Sunita Kapoor (skapoor@usasean.org) and Hai Pham (hpham@usasean.org).

October 30-31, 2018: Mission to the 36th ASEAN Ministers of Energy Meeting (AMEM):  Register here for the US-ASEAN Business Council’s Business Mission to the 36th ASEAN Ministers on Energy Meeting (AMEM) in Singapore. The mission will take place Tuesday, October 30, to Wednesday, October 31, and will consist of bilateral meetings with ASEAN Energy Ministers and relevant AMEM Dialogue Partners. The deadline for receipt of registration and mission materials is Tuesday, October 16. For more information, please contact Riley Smith (rsmith@usasean.org). 

 
THE COUNCIL'S TAKE
 
 

International Criminal Court Moves Forward With Preliminary Examination into Alleged Crimes Against Rohingya Population
On August 27, a United Nations Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar delivered a report calling for the investigation and prosecution of Myanmar’s top military leaders at the International Criminal Court (ICC) for crimes against humanity and war crimes (for more information, read our previous Update here). Shortly after the UN report, the ICC has commenced a "full-fledged" preliminary examination in Myanmar, although a full investigation has not yet been opened. The ICC and related bodies instrumental to opening an investigation are facing pressure from the international community.

Despite these pressures, the ICC has moved forward with examining the situation in Myanmar. On September 6, ICC judges ruled that the court has jurisdiction over the alleged crimes against the Rohingya. Currently, Myanmar is not a party to the Rome Statute, but Bangladesh is; more than 700,000 Rohingya have fled to Bangladesh from Myanmar’s Rakhine state since August 2017. The cross-border nature of the alleged crimes means that the ICC “may therefore exercise jurisdiction over conduct to the extent it partly occurred on the territory of Bangladesh”, according to ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda’s statement regarding a potential investigation.

Members of the international community have called for the UN Security Council to refer the situation to the ICC to trigger an investigation. For example, 132 ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights (APHR) released a joint statement calling for the UN Security Council to refer the situation to the ICC.

Myanmar Parliament Approves National Planning Bill; Projects Growth in Telecommunications, Industrial and Financial Services Sectors

On September 21, Myanmar’s Parliament approved the National Planning Bill for the fiscal year 2018-2019. Despite a recently slowing economy and decreasing business confidence, several sectors in Myanmar’s economy are expected to see continued growth. The recent National Planning Law projects that GDP growth will increase from 6.8% to 7.9%, with the most growth taking place in the telecommunications, industrial and financial services sectors, which are projected to grow of 15%, 11.2% and 9%, respectively, in the coming fiscal year. Comparatively, the World Bank estimates economic growth at 6.8% in the 2018/19 fiscal year, an increase from Myanmar's 6.4% growth in 2017/18. In its May 2018 Myanmar Economic Monitor, the World Bank predicts Myanmar’s positive macroeconomic outlook but increased risks to baseline outlook.

The Myanmar Times separately identified five sectors expected to grow in 2019, based on interviews with industry leaders and Ministers. These sectors are banking, oil and gas, retail, education and garment manufacturing. The banking sector is expected to grow, despite lack of access to financing, due to improved digital financial infrastructure and an increase in the number of users. Foreign direct investment (FDI) in the oil and gas industry is expected to increase in 2019 due to a combination of several ongoing exploration projects and promising discoveries in existing blocks and wells. The retail sector is expected to continue to grow with major companies from Japan, Thailand and South Korea seeking opportunities for investments in cities beyond Yangon. Education is likely to continue to see interest from international service providers in vocational and skills training. In addition, opportunities are also expected to open up in higher education in order to meet the demand of young professionals eager to develop skillsets that will help them remain competitive in the workforce and meet the needs of multinational companies (MNCs) entering the market. Lastly, the ready-made garment sector, already a main contributor to Myanmar’s exports, is expected to continue to expand in 2019.

The status of Myanmar’s State-Owned Enterprises (SOE) and FDI flows will be key to helping the sectors identified in the National Planning Bill, as well as the broader economy in Myanmar, achieve their growth projections. The National Planning Bill instructs government departments to review SOEs currently making annual losses and compose a list for potential privatization, according to The Irrawaddy. However, foreign investors are critical to the growth of these sectors, and the potential expansion of existing targeted sanctions may make foreign investors and MNCs for more cautious, stifling FDI flows. The sanctions landscape is currently uncertain, as it will depend on how the international community responds to the recent UN report and ICC probe (see the previous Council’s Take above for more details).

Myanmar’s Renewable Energy Plan in Progress
Myanmar’s Ministry of Electricity and Energy (MOEE) is currently drafting a renewable energy law to spur further development of its renewable energy sector. Aiming to generate 8% of the country’s electricity from renewable sources by 2021, MOEE will prioritize developing solar energy assets first, then wind energy. MOEE hopes to increase this percentage to 12% by 2025. The MOEE’s Chief Engineer, U Maung Maung Kyaw, said that the country has plenty of natural resources, especially in solar and wind power, but lacks policy structure to drive growth in renewable energy, according to The Myanmar Times. One solar power plant, which will have a generating capacity of 170MW, is already under construction in Minbu, Magway Region. The construction of two other solar power plants, one in Myingyan and another in Wundwin, each with a generating capacity of 150MW, is expected to start soon. Following his appointment last year, Minister for Electricity and Energy U Win Khaing has prioritized meeting electricity demand over the short-to-medium term, as it is projected that Myanmar will need to double its current electricity supply by 2020 to meet rising demand from businesses and households. Though the role of non-hydro renewables in the country’s energy mix over this period of time will be smaller than that of hydropower, natural gas, and coal, a formalized strategy for how to develop the sector and better integrate it into the power generation mix will help grow renewables’ role over the coming decades.

 
 
 
IN THIS UPDATE
 
 

Regional Affairs
UK Foreign Secretary Hunt Gets Rare Cold Shoulder From Commander-in-Chief
U.K. Says Myanmar May Need to Be Referred to ICC over Rohingya
Senior CPC official meets Myanmar's NLD delegation
Myanmar jailbreakers could be heading to Thailand
Why China fears Myanmar’s Christians
Myanmar's Suu Kyi won't attend U.N. General Assembly: media

National Affairs
Rohingya crisis: UN has 'no right to interfere' says Myanmar army chief
‘The issue has prompted serious challenges for us’: President’s Office Spokesman
U.N. Investigators Renew Call for Genocide Probe in Myanmar
U.N. Calls for Genocide Charges Against Leaders of Myanmar’s Military
Suu Kyi defence of jailing of Reuters journalists 'unbelievable' -...
Myanmar: ICC Has No Jurisdiction in Rohingya Crisis
ICC Says It Can Rule On Alleged Crimes Against the Rohingya
Reuters Journalists In Myanmar Convicted, Sentenced To 7 Years

Customs
Call for Myanmar to Act on Illicit Trade
Customs cooperation pact may conclude by 2019: BIMSTEC Secretary General

Defense & Security
Indian naval ships to call at Myanmar port
Could Myanmar Form a Coast Guard?

Economics
Five sectors driving Myanmar’s economic growth in 2018-19
National Planning Law Expects Highest Growth in Telecom, Industrial, Financial Sectors
Business community underwhelmed by talk-fest on economy
Businesses call for lower taxes amid slowing economy
FDI forecast to hitUS$ 5 .8B in 2018-19

Energy
Total S.A. UK Regulatory Announcement: Myanmar: Positive Appraisal of the A6 Block Discovery
Fifth gas discovery in Myanmar offshore Block A-6
Ministry to distribute LPG to one million households in 2020 | Eleven Myanmar
Coal plan sparks ire as Myanmar struggles to keep lights on
Renewable energy law in the works to speed up development
Qinzhou transmission station starts supplying China-Myanmar pipeline
PPA for hydropower signed
Tigyit coal-fired power plant not harmful to public: Energy Ministry
US$300m ADB loan to expand national grid

Financial Services
Representatives call for review of SOE law
Rules permitting foreigners to trade likely out this year
At least five more years needed for Myanmar to go cashless
Falling kyat may put pressure on foreign debt
Myanmar: Door to open soon to foreign insurers

Food & Agriculture
Slow start in race to replant flooded fields
Earnings from agriculture exports decline despite lower kyat exchange rate
Norwegian researchers raise concerns about microplastics in Rakhine waters
Myanmar pulses unaffected by India’s import restriction: industry
Govt to crack down on illegal use of farmland
Domestic rice prices hit record levels
Thailand to legalise illegal fish workers


Health & Life Sciences
WHO helps govt bring epilepsy fight to Mon
Medicine importers urged to weather kyat’s woes
Myanmar Govt Plans to Open Private Medical Universities
Flu outbreak in Nanyun to be controlled in two weeks: ministry

ICT
MIH unveils Myanmar’s fastest fibre-optic Internet
Interest in tech startups rises, but challenges remain in 4IR
Myanmar national portal to be launched

Infrastructure
Thailand halts road construction near Thai-Myanmar border
US power firm expands into Myanmar
Analysis: ‘Debt Trap’ Alert Rises in Myanmar as More ‘Belt and Road Projects Scrapped
Yangon public bus companies rack up K4 billion in losses
Govt housing project in the red before development commences
Viability of infrastructure projects essential for investments
Myanmar expects rise of K13.5 billion in construction sector in 2020
Residents flee homes after landslide at dam
Minister Warns Many More Dams at Risk of Bursting
Accidents Decline on Myanmar’s ‘Death Highway’
Lawmaker Demands Accounting of Dam Maintenance Funds after Bago Flood
Bidding for new oil and gas fields to commence next year

Manufacturing
Gas-fired plant in Kyaukse to be built
Pioneering Maubin industrial zone moves forward

Travel & Tourism
India, Myanmar to Begin Using E-Visas Along Land Border
Visitor growth to Myanmar slows to 2% this year
New city project by Chinese firm raises hackles in Kayin
Expert to meet Bagan people, study bid for heritage listing
Arrival and departure cards canceled
Tour operators barely surviving due to “incredibly shaky” demand

 
ARTICLE CLIPS
 
 
Regional Affairs

UK Foreign Secretary Hunt Gets Rare Cold Shoulder From Commander-in-Chief The Irrawaddy 21st Sep 2018
Commander-in-Chief Senior General Min Aung Hlaing has received a number of foreign diplomats, UN officials and high-profile international figures over the crisis in northern Rakhine State. UK Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt has just become the exception.

U.K. Says Myanmar May Need to Be Referred to ICC over Rohingya The Irrawaddy 20th Sep 2018
British Foreign Minister Jeremy Hunt said on Thursday that the international community should consider referring the treatment of Rohingya in Myanmar to the International Criminal Court (ICC) unless those responsible are tried and held accountable in the country. “If there is not going to be accountability and justice in Burma, then the international community needs to look at all options including ICC referral,” Hunt said on Twitter, posting during his visit to Myanmar. “The latter would need the support of the Security Council, which it may not get, so we need to look at other options too.”

Senior CPC official meets Myanmar's NLD delegation Xinhua 18th Sep 2018
A senior Communist Party of China (CPC) official said Tuesday that the CPC will continue to deepen exchanges on state and party governance experience with Myanmar's ruling party, the National League for Democracy (NLD).

Myanmar jailbreakers could be heading to Thailand The Straits Times 17th Sep 2018
More than 30 inmates on the run after a Myanmar jailbreak may try to cross into Thailand, an official said Monday (Sept 17), a day after they hijacked a garbage truck and ploughed through the prison gates. The fugitives broke out of Hpa-An jail in the country's eastern Karen state - which borders Thailand - on Sunday morning. State media said 10 of the 41 escapees had been recaptured while police are scouring nearby villages for those still at large.

Why China fears Myanmar’s Christians Asia Times 17th Sep 2018
as Christianity become a threat to the established order in areas controlled by Myanmar’s United Wa State Army (UWSA), the nation’s largest and best-armed rebel army situated in its remote northeastern hills? Or does China aim to further consolidate its near-monopoly on Myanmar’s peace process by squeezing out rival Western nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) and blocking potential Western agents from accessing the area while masquerading as Christian missionaries?

Myanmar's Suu Kyi won't attend U.N. General Assembly: media Reuters 12th Sep 2018
Myanmar government leader Aung San Suu Kyi will not attend the U.N. General Assembly in New York next week, media reported on Wednesday, amid growing calls for Myanmar’s security forces to be held accountable for alleged crimes against Rohingya Muslims. Nobel Peace Prize winner Suu Kyi heads the civilian government in the specially created role of state counsellor, but also serves as minister of foreign affairs.

National Affairs

Rohingya crisis: UN has 'no right to interfere' says Myanmar army chief The Straits Times 24th Sep 2018
Myanmar's army chief said the United Nations had no right to interfere in the sovereignty of the country, a week after UN investigators called on him and other top generals to be prosecuted for "genocide" against the Rohingya minority. The defiant response is the army chief’s first public reaction since a UN fact-finding mission urged the Security Council to refer Myanmar’s top military brass to the International Criminal Court (ICC).

‘The issue has prompted serious challenges for us’: President’s Office Spokesman The Irrawaddy 21st Sep 2018
Myanmar’s President’s Office spokesperson has said the recent UN report on the Rohingya issue may cause divisions between ethnic groups in the country and encourage the disintegration of the state. Repeating the response made by the Myanmar’s ambassador to the UN on Sep. 18 during the UNHRC meeting in Geneva, the spokesperson U Zaw Htay told media on Friday that the report could derail the country’s democratic transition.

U.N. Investigators Renew Call for Genocide Probe in Myanmar Time 18th Sep 2018
U.N. investigators renewed their call on Tuesday for the investigation and prosecution of Myanmar’s top military officials for genocide and war crimes, publishing an exhaustive account of atrocities allegedly committed against the country’s Rohingya Muslims and other minorities.

U.N. Calls for Genocide Charges Against Leaders of Myanmar’s Military Wall Street Journal 18th Sep 2018
The United Nations said leaders of Myanmar’s military should be prosecuted for genocide of the Rohingya minority in a landmark report Tuesday that criticized the world body’s own agencies for not doing enough to confront the government over human rights. The 444-page report provides the most detailed and haunting look yet at the massacres and other actions taken against the Rohingya, a Muslim minority, which left 10,000 people dead and drove some 700,000 into neighboring Bangladesh.

Suu Kyi defence of jailing of Reuters journalists 'unbelievable' Reuters 14th Sep 2018
Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi said on Thursday the jailing of two Reuters journalists had nothing to do with freedom of expression and that they can appeal against their seven-year sentences, prompting a sharp rebuke from the United States. Suu Kyi, in her first public comment on the case since the two, Wa Lone, 32, and Kyaw Soe Oo, 28, were convicted last week, referred to the colonial-era law under which they were charged.

Myanmar: ICC Has No Jurisdiction in Rohingya Crisis VOA 7th Sep 2018
Myanmar's government said on Friday it "resolutely rejects" a ruling from the International Criminal Court (ICC) that said the body has jurisdiction over alleged deportations of Rohingya Muslims to Bangladesh as a possible crime against humanity. A statement from the office of Myanmar's President Win Myint dismissed Thursday's ICC ruling as "the result of faulty procedure and is of dubious legal merit." "Furthermore, allegations consisting of charged narratives of harrowing personal tragedies which have nothing to do with the legal arguments in question were permitted, thereby putting emotional pressure on the Court," the statement said, referring to submissions requested by the court.

ICC Says It Can Rule On Alleged Crimes Against the Rohingya Time 7th Sep 2018
In a ruling that could open the door for the first criminal prosecution of the Myanmar military’s ethnic cleansing campaign, the International Criminal Court said Thursday that it has jurisdiction to probe the forced expulsion of Rohingya as a possible crime against humanity. More than 700,000 people from the stateless Muslim minority were driven from their homes in Myanmar’s northern Rakhine state and into neighboring Bangladesh since last August. Survivors described fleeing a military-led frenzy of gang rapes, arson and mass murder.

Reuters Journalists In Myanmar Convicted, Sentenced To 7 Years NPR.org 3rd Sep 2018
Wa Lone, 32, and Kyaw Soe Oo, 28, both Myanmar nationals and journalists for the Reuters news service, were arrested for violation of the country's Official Secrets Act, which dates back more than 90 years to its time as a British colony known as Burma. It was a "heartbreaking moment" for the men and their families, Reuters Regional Editor for Asia Kevin Krolicki told NPR's Morning Edition.

Customs

Call for Myanmar to Act on Illicit Trade The Maritime Executive 11th Sep 2018
The Transnational Alliance to Combat Illicit Trade (TRACIT) called for Myanmar to urgently step up efforts to fight illicit trade, during a conference hosted by EuroCham Myanmar this month.  Myanmar was listed near the bottom of the 2018 Global Illicit Trade Environment Index produced by The Economist Intelligence Unit.

Customs cooperation pact may conclude by 2019: BIMSTEC Secretary General The Economic Times 5th Sep 2018
Seven-membered regional grouping BIMSTEC Wednesday expressed hope that the customs cooperation agreement , which is a trade facilitation initiative, among the member nations will be finalised by 2019. The grouping is also expected to conclude the agreement on trade in goods by 2020. Founded in 1997, BIMSTEC (Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation ) is a regional grouping comprising India, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Bhutan and Nepal.

Defense & Security

Indian naval ships to call at Myanmar port Business Standard 24th Sep 2018
Two Indian naval ships along with one IndianNavyDornier aircraft will call at Myanmar's YangonPort later on Monday as part of an ongoing exercise between the two nations, media reported. The three-day call would include activities for the 7th India-Myanmarcoordinated patrol that maintains maritime security and enhances operational exchanges between the navies, Global New Light of Myanmarreported.

Could Myanmar Form a Coast Guard? The Diplomat 7th Sep 2018
A week after a mysterious “ghost ship” showed up near Thongwa, just 12 km from Yangon, the government of Myanmar showed interest in a bold move: organizing a coast guard. Director General of the Department of Marine Administration U Thaung Kyaing confirmed during a September 6 press conference that there was some interest within the government for establishing a coast guard. News has circulated before that the government was considering the means to organize a coast guard to support the maritime police force.

Economics

Five sectors driving Myanmar’s economic growth in 2018-19 The Myanmar Times 24th Sep 2018
Myanmar’s economy has taken a beating in recent quarters, with a rising number of companies reporting tougher business conditions and a slowdown in market demand.

National Planning Law Expects Highest Growth in Telecom, Industrial, Financial Sectors The Irrawaddy 21st Sep 2018
On Wednesday, President U Win Myint signed the bill with the approval of the Union Parliament and it is to be effective from October 1 this year to September 30, 2019. According to the National Planning Law, the government expects to increase the growth of GDP from 6.8 percent to 7.6 percent, while the telecommunications sector is projected to grow by 15 percent, the industrial sector by 11.2 percent and the financial sector by 9 percent in the coming fiscal year.

Business community underwhelmed by talk-fest on economy Frontier Myanmar 21st Sep 2018
A meeting between State Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and business leaders that was front-page news in state-controlled newspapers has come under criticism for failing to discuss specific solutions to the slowdown in the economy. Critics of the meeting within the business community say the event was little more than a speech and a photo opportunity for participants.

Businesses call for lower taxes amid slowing economy The Myanmar Times 17th Sep 2018
Myanmar businesses are urging the government to lower the country’s tax rates to alleviate pressure from the rising dollar exchange rate and slowdown in demand in recent months. According to the quarterly Business Sentiment Survey by the Union of Myanmar Federation Chamber of Commerce and Industry (UMFCCI) released last month, Myanmar’s high taxation rates are among the top reasons for the weakening economy.

FDI forecast to hitUS$ 5 .8B in 2018-19 The Myanmar Times 3rd Sep 2018
Myanmar is expected to draw foreign direct investments (FDI) totaling US$5.8 billion in the upcoming 2018-19 fiscal year beginning on October 1, said U Than Aung Kyaw, deputy director general of the Directorate of Investment and Company Administration (DICA). That’s unchanged from the previous 2017-18 year ended March 31, during which Myanmar received $5.7 billion in FDI for 222 projects. In comparison, the country received $6.6 billion for 135 investments in 2016-17.

Energy

Total S.A. UK Regulatory Announcement: Myanmar: Positive Appraisal of the A6 Block Discovery Business Wire 24th Sep 2018
Total announces a successful appraisal of the A6 block Shwe Yee Htun-2 discovery, offshore Myanmar, completing a major step towards confirming a commercial project. The well was drilled to a final depth of 4,820 meters and encountered 40 meters of net gas pay in a high quality reservoir. Preliminary tests confirm good reservoir quality, permeability and well production deliverability. The Shwe Yee Htun-2 adds to the Shwe Yee Htun-1 (2016) and Pyi Thit-1 (2017) gas discoveries made earlier on the Block. The cumulated resources are evaluated in the range of 2 to 3 Tcf.

Fifth gas discovery in Myanmar offshore Block A-6 The Myanmar Times 24th Sep 2018
The domestic oil and gas firm said this equates to a track record amounting to 100-percent success with five gas discoveries achieved in five wells drilled in Myanmar offshore Block A-6. The Shwe Yee Htun-2, an appraisal well in offshore block A-6, was tested to be able to produce natural gas, according to an official announcement from the Ministry of Electricity and Energy on September 22.

Ministry to distribute LPG to one million households in 2020 | Eleven Myanmar Eleven Myanmar 23rd Sep 2018
In a bid to reduce the use of firewood and charcoal through the extensive use of Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG) and promote health and social standards of the rural people, Ministry of Electricity and Energy will distribute LPG to one million households in 2020, said Win Khaing, Union Minister for Electricity and Energy.

Coal plan sparks ire as Myanmar struggles to keep lights on LAKELAND OBSERVER 23rd Sep 2018
Opposition to a planned $3 billion coal-fired power plant in eastern Myanmar is highlighting the challenges facing ’s government in crafting a coherent energy policy in one of Asia’s poorest and most electricity-starved countries. With only a third of the country’s 60 million people connected to the grid and major cities experiencing blackouts, finding investors is tough for Myanmar and it is now looking at options, from coal to deep-sea gas, to boost its power supply.

Renewable energy law in the works to speed up development The Myanmar Times 19th Sep 2018
The ministry is aiming to generate 8 percent of the country’s electricity through renewable sources of energy by 2021. By 2025, the target is for 12pc of all electricity generated in Myanmar to be renewable. 

Qinzhou transmission station starts supplying China-Myanmar pipeline Interfax Global Energy 17th Sep 2018
The Qinzhou transmission station at Sinopec’s Guangxi LNG terminal started supplying regasified LNG to the China-Myanmar gas pipeline on Friday, Sinopec said on Monday.

PPA for hydropower signed The Myanmar Times 14th Sep 2018
The 10th Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) between the government and the Chinese company which will buy electricity from the Shweli 1 hydropower plant at Namhkam township in northern Shan State was signed in Nay Pyi Taw on September 12. Operated by Shweli(1) Hydropower Co. Ltd, the Shweli-1 dam generates 600MW of power from six 100MW generation units. The project has the capacity to generate up to 4022 million power units annually. Four generators from Shweli-1 project are connected to a 230 KV transmission line and electricity is supplied to Myanmar’s national grid via Mansi substation.

Tigyit coal-fired power plant not harmful to public: Energy Ministry Eleven Myanmar 14th Sep 2018
Tigyit coal-fired power plant is not harmful for local residents and is built in accordance with the UN’s standards, said Khin Maung Win, Managing Director of Electric Power Supply Enterprise under the Ministry of Electricity and Energy at the monthly press conference held in Nay Pyi Taw, yesterday.

US$300m ADB loan to expand national grid The Myanmar Times 13th Sep 2018
Nay Pyi Taw is seeking approval from the Pyidaungsu Hluttaw to take a US$300 million loan from Asia Development Bank (ADB) to expand the national grid in seven regions and states. U Tun Naing, deputy minister at the Ministry of Electricity and Energy, said the project area covers Yangon, Ayeyarwaddy, Bago and Tanintharyi regions and Mon, Kayin and Rakhine states at the cost of US$308.9 million. Part of that cost, $298.9 million, will be supplied as an ADB loan. The remaining $10 million is to be funded by the government. An additional ten miles of 230kV transmission will be constructed in Yangon Region in order to cover the whole region.

Financial Services

Representatives call for review of SOE law The Myanmar Times 11th Sep 2018
Representatives of Parliament have urged lawmakers to review an existing law under which the government must bail out loss-making State-owned enterprises (SOEs) with public funds. A total of 17 out of the 26 Myanmar SOEs under the Union budget are expected to turn a profit in 2018-19, commencing October 1, according to the Ministry of Planning and Finance (MOPF). These include Myanma Posts and Telecommunications, Myanmar Timber Enterprise, Myanmar Gems Enterprise, Myanmar Pearl Enterprise, Myanma Oil and Gas Enterprise, , Myanma Economic Bank, Myanma Investment and Commercial Bank, Myanma Foreign Trade Bank, Myanma Agriculture Development Bank and Myanma Insurance.

Rules permitting foreigners to trade likely out this year The Myanmar Times 10th Sep 2018
The Yangon Stock Exchange (YSX) will release rules under the new Myanmar Companies Law which could allow foreigners to trade on the local bourse before the end of the year, U Yin Zaw Myo, managing director of the YSX, said yesterday. The rules are currently being drafted together with the Securities and Exchange Commission of Myanmar (SECM), securities companies and the five YSX-listed companies.

At least five more years needed for Myanmar to go cashless The Myanmar Times 7th Sep 2018
“It costs the government money to print cash and produce coins and this amount is quite a lot. There are also other costs involving transporting the money to various banks across the country,” said U Zaw Lin Htut, CEO of Myanmar Payment Union (MPU). Meanwhile, it is getting more difficult to monitor the growing volume of cash flows related to tax and licensing matters at government departments. “All that leads to unnecessary cases involving corruption. For citizens, fake cash notes and damaged money are also a problem,” said U Zaw Lin Htut.

Falling kyat may put pressure on foreign debt The Myanmar Times 7th Sep 2018
The falling value of the Myanmar kyat versus the US dollar could make repaying external debt harder for the government in the coming fiscal year. In 2018-19, it is expected to repay K877 billion out of the $9 billion Myanmar owes to foreign creditors, according to the budget submitted for the period. That amount may well end up being much higher, given that it was calculated when the exchange rate was still K1,360 to the dollar. It is now around K1,540, representing a difference of more than 13 percent.

Myanmar: Door to open soon to foreign insurers Asia Insurance Review 3rd Sep 2018
The Insurance Business Regulatory Board (IBRB) will allow foreign insurance companies to conduct business in the country in the new fiscal year, which will commence on 1 October, U Zaw Naing, the board's secretary, has said. “This is a roadmap for the development of the local insurance sector. The Union government has already given the nod for it. We will allow foreign insurance companies to sell life insurance and general insurance services in the country. It will start in FY2018-2019,” he added.

Food & Agriculture

Slow start in race to replant flooded fields Frontier Myanmar 21st Sep 2018
State and region chief ministers are not known for getting their hands dirty; umbrella receptions, official motorcades and teak-heavy audience rooms are more their style. But on August 10, Bago Region Chief Minister U Win Thein and his cabinet donned rubber boots, hiked up their longyis and waded into water-logged paddy fields near the city.

Earnings from agriculture exports decline despite lower kyat exchange rate The Myanmar Times 18th Sep 2018
Earnings from Myanmar’s agricultural exports have fallen by around 20 percent since the NLD-government took office in 2015 due to a lack of planning, technological progress and policy direction, insiders said. The fall in export earnings also coincides with a widening trade deficit and dearer exchange dollar exchange rate, which should make the country’s exports cheaper and more attractive to international buyers.

Norwegian researchers raise concerns about microplastics in Rakhine waters The Myanmar Times 18th Sep 2018
Scientists on a Norwegian research vessel have expressed alarm over the large amount of microplastics in the sea off southern Rakhine State. The ship, RV Dr. Fridtjof Nansen – which is named after a famous Norwegian explorer, diplomat, humanitarian and Nobel Peace Prize laureate – conducted a month-long study of fish resources and the marine ecosystem off Rakhine and Ayeyarwady Region.

Myanmar pulses unaffected by India’s import restriction: industry The Myanmar Times 7th Sep 2018
India’s Department of Commerce, under the Ministry of Commerce and Industry, has released a trade policy statement, on August 30, stating that as per the foreign trade policy, import of peas classified under Exim Code including yellow peas, green peas, dun peas and Kaspa peas is “restricted” until the end of September. However, this will not be affecting Myanmar as yellow peas and green peas are not major exports of the country, Myanmar Pulses, Beans & Sesame Seeds Merchants Association Secretary U Min Ko Oo explained.

Govt to crack down on illegal use of farmland The Myanmar Times 4th Sep 2018
As demand for living quarters rises on the back of an expanding population, so has the illegal selling of farmland for residential purposes, U Hla Kyaw, deputy minister for Agriculture, Livestock and Irrigation, said during last week’s Amyotha Hluttaw meeting. He said the number of instances where plots of land meant for agriculture purposes have been carved out and sold to residents for other purposes has increased. He added that this illegal distribution of farmland for urban purposes is a key reason for the dwindling space available for agriculture development

Domestic rice prices hit record levels The Myanmar Times 3rd Sep 2018
The price of high quality domestic rice has risen the most in five years, driven by rising demand, inflation and potential price manipulation, local traders said. According to data from the Myanmar Rice Federation and Myanmar Rice and Paddy Traders Association, a bag of Ayeyarwady Paw San rice had hit K52,000 in August, which is up by almost 60 percent since the start of the year. Meanwhile, a bag of Shwebo Paw San rice cost K62,000 in August, up nearly around 35pc over the same period. On the other hand, the prices of lower quality Ei Mahta and broken rice, which are mainly exported, appear to be stable, officials from Myanmar Rice and Paddy Traders Association said.

Thailand to legalise illegal fish workers The Myanmar Times 13th Sep 2018
Thailand would soon start legalising thousands of illegal Myanmar workers in its fishing industry as a first step to the signing of an agreement to provide more workers for the business, which is struggling with a labour shortage. This arrangement was reached when Thai Labour Minister Adul Sangsingkeo visited Myanmar on August 16, said U Thein Swe, minister for Labour, Immigration and Population.

Health & Life Sciences

WHO helps govt bring epilepsy fight to Mon The Myanmar Times 24th Sep 2018
The government, with the help of the World Health Organisation, will take its Myanmar Epilepsy Initiative to Mon State in December, a senior consultant of Yangon General Hospital said. U San Oo, of the hospital’s Department of Neurology and manager of the initiative, said the programme will provide adequate care to people afflicted with the debilitating neurological disorder in eight of Mon’s 10 townships.

Medicine importers urged to weather kyat’s woes The Myanmar Times 24th Sep 2018
A national trade group has urged importers and exporters of medicine and medical equipment to charge fair prices and not interrupt supplies to hospitals, clinics, doctors and patients because of the US dollar’s high exchange rate. “Our association has no administrative power, so we appeal to importers and exporters of medicine and medical equipment, in the spirit of public service, to continue selling medicine,” said U Zaw Moe Khine, chairman of the Myanmar Pharmaceuticals and Medical Equipment Entrepreneurs’ Association.

Myanmar Govt Plans to Open Private Medical Universities The Irrawaddy 18th Sep 2018
Myanmar has received proposals from foreign countries to open private medical and nursing universities in the country, Union Minister for Health and Sports Dr. Myint Htwe told the Upper House on Monday. “We are planning to open private medical and nursing universities. Many (founders of medical schools) have come and spoken with us. We are ready. But there is still no related educational law. We can open them after the law is enacted,” said Dr. Myint Htwe.

Flu outbreak in Nanyun to be controlled in two weeks: ministry The Myanmar Times 18th Sep 2018
The Ministry of Health and Sports expects to control a seasonal flu outbreak within two weeks in Nanyun township, Sagaing Region, a senior ministry official said. U Than Tun Aung, deputy director general of the Public Health Department, said his team is in the process of controlling suspected acute pneumonia related to the seasonal flu in Lanthan and nearby villages in the township.

ICT

MIH unveils Myanmar’s fastest fibre-optic Internet The Nation 24th Sep 2018
Service provider Myanmar Information Highway (MIH) has introduced the country’s fastest fibre-optic Internet broadband for business, with 100-gigabit-per-second (Gbps) network capacity, covering 23 townships and major buildings in Yangon. Managing director Sunti Medhavikul said communication infrastructure was one of the keys to businesses success in the digital era.

Interest in tech startups rises, but challenges remain in 4IR The Myanmar Times 17th Sep 2018
Myanmar will invest in developing its human capital to keep up in the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR), State Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi said at the World Economic Forum for Asean in Hanoi last week. But while support for upcoming entrepreneurs and start-ups in Myanmar is rising, there are still major hurdles blocking the sector from achieving its potential.

Myanmar national portal to be launched The Myanmar Times 11th Sep 2018
The Myanmar National Portal will be launched in the English and Myanmar languages to provide information about the country and government in a single place, according to the Ministry of Transport and Communications. The web portal, which is being funded with a World Bank loan of K2.47 billion (US$1.6 million), will provide information on the history, traditional ceremonies and culture of the country and government organisations at all levels. It would provide links to all government department websites, phone numbers and addresses.

Infrastructure

Thailand halts road construction near Thai-Myanmar border Khmer Times 24th Sep 2018
Thai authorities have suspended the construction of a road near a “No Man’s Land” islet in a river between Thailand and Myanmar at the request of their neighbours, said a Thai army source on Saturday.

US power firm expands into Myanmar The Myanmar Times 19th Sep 2018
US-listed power management company Eaton Corporation announced its expansion into the Myanmar market through a partnership with Myanmar Golden Rock International Co (MGR), which provides technology solutions in the country, on Septemer 18. Together with MGR, Eaton will bring its expertise in power management technologies to the data center, healthcare, utilities and commercial building sectors with the aim of improving the reliability of existing and newly-developed power generation, transmission and distribution infrastructure in the country.

Analysis: ‘Debt Trap’ Alert Rises in Myanmar as More ‘Belt and Road Projects Scrapped The Irrawaddy 18th Sep 2018
Pakistan has recently halted agreements reached under China’s Belt and Road Initiative, including the Pakistan-China Economic Corridor seeking to connect Asia and Europe along the same route as the ancient Silk Road, because it was found to unfairly benefit Chinese companies.

Yangon public bus companies rack up K4 billion in losses The Myanmar Times 17th Sep 2018
Two Yangon public companies, the Yangon Bus Public Company (YBPC) and Yangon Urban Public Transportation Public Company (YUPT), have recorded losses totaling K4 billion in the past three years, according to a report prepared by the Yangon Region Office of the Auditor General. The 2016-17 report was submitted to the Yangon Hluttaw by Auditor General Daw Khin Than on September 14. The report showed that the Yangon government had invested K35 billion each in YBPC and YUPT, which currently operate under public-private partnerships (PPP).

Govt housing project in the red before development commences The Myanmar Times 17th Sep 2018
While the Yangon Region government has injected K54billion into the development of the Mahar Yangon new city project, construction has yet to commence, according to a 2016-17 report prepared by the Yangon Region Office of the Auditor General. Meanwhile, the project has already chalked up K11.6 million in costs. When it is complete, Mahar Yangon is expected to consist of several housing projects, including the Mayangone Villa housing project, Parami housing project, civil servant housing and a mixed-use project. It will also include a dry port industrial zone. Staff housing will be constructed to support the industrial projects.

Viability of infrastructure projects essential for investments The Myanmar Times 12th Sep 2018
Although foreign direct investments have fallen below expectations, there are two areas where Nay Pyi Taw has moved forward - China-related and Belt and Road projects as well as the Myanmar Sustainable Development Plan (MSDP). Infrastructure is key to the MSDP, he added. Significantly, the country will move from a practice where projects are selected based on budgetary consideration to a framework where the priority is for projects which are truly needed by the population. In that regard, commercial viability and bankability would be crucial factors.

Myanmar expects rise of K13.5 billion in construction sector in 2020 Eleven Myanmar 7th Sep 2018
Myanmar has expected a rise of K13.5 billion in construction sector in 2020 according to a review of annual changes in the construction sector. The remarks came from the press conference on Myanmar Build & Décor 2018 held at the Republic of Union of Myanmar Federation of Chamber of Commerce and Industry also known as the UMFCCI in Yangon on September 6. “Some tenders of basic education are in a state of backsliding because of mini budget. The upcoming budget is for one year, but now we are going on with six-month budget. Anyhow, tenders of the State will be increasing soon,” said Myo Myint, general-secretary of the UMFCCI.

Residents flee homes after landslide at dam The Myanmar Times 7th Sep 2018
The landslide, which was an estimated 100 feet long and 40ft wide, happened Sunday, and residents started to leave the area on Tuesday after a warning of a landslide on the dam’s embankment was issued for villages below the dam, including Takhon Tine, Maungma Lote, Sin Te, Sin Kyan, Ywarma Htone, Alal and Myohla, said residents. “It was not an official warning by the government. It was by the village elders who alerted residents with loud speakers. Some people from Myohla village ran to higher ground,” said U Than Soe, an official in Thanbula village, which is near the dam.

Minister Warns Many More Dams at Risk of Bursting The Irrawaddy 6th Sep 2018
Union Minister for Agriculture, Livestock and Irrigation, U Aung Thu, has warned the public of possible dam breaks. Speaking to reporters in Naypyitaw on Wednesday, the minister said that currently, the spillways of 57 dams across the country are submerged, warning of the likelihood of incidents similar to the bursting of the spillway of the dam on Swar Creek in Bago Region which resulted in the flooding of dozens of villages in Taungoo District in late August.

Accidents Decline on Myanmar’s ‘Death Highway’ The Irrawaddy 5th Sep 2018
Sixty people were killed and more than 570 others were injured in traffic accidents in eight months on the Yangon-Mandalay Expressway, according to the expressway traffic police force. There were a total of 297 road accidents from January through August and as in previous years, most involved private cars, traffic police said. Last year, the highway saw a total of 555 road accidents in which 116 people were killed and 863 were injured, a decline from 2016, which saw 774 road accidents in which 170 died and 1,304 were injured.

Lawmaker Demands Accounting of Dam Maintenance Funds after Bago Flood The Irrawaddy 4th Sep 2018
Lawmaker U Tin Tun Naing grilled the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Irrigation about last week’s fatal dam burst in Bago Region, during Monday’s session of the Union Parliament. The lawmaker expressed doubts that the ministry had conducted the proper annual maintenance work on the dam. At least seven people were killed after the dam on Swar Creek in Bago’s Taungoo District was breached on Aug. 29.

Bidding for new oil and gas fields to commence next year The Myanmar Times 31st Aug 2018
Fresh bidding rounds for offshore and onshore oil and gas blocks will be called during the first and second quarters of 2019, according to the director general of the Ministry of Electricity and Energy’s Oil and Gas Planning Department. “Tenders for one block in an existing onshore field will be called before the end of the year and we’ve started preparing to submit the necessary documents to the President’s Office. For offshore and other onshore fields, bidding will be called in the first and second quarters of next year,” he said.

Manufacturing

Gas-fired plant in Kyaukse to be built The Myanmar Times 4th Sep 2018
The gas-fired power plant will be implemented within Baelin 230 kV substation by Powergen Kyaukse Company Limited. 18MW gas engines for the power plant, purchased from Wartsila Company, arrived to Ahlone international port in Yangon on September 1, and inspections were carried out by Dr Tun Naing, deputy electricity and energy minister. The ministry issued a Letter of Acceptance (LoA) to the company for the construction of the power plant during the first week of May 2018.

Pioneering Maubin industrial zone moves forward Frontier Myanmar 3rd Sep 2018
The development of an industrial park in Ayeyarwady Region has taken a major step forward following a decision to designate hundreds of acres of farmland as suitable for industrial use. The decision in July by the National Land Resources Management Central Committee came with work expected to begin early next year. Maubin Development Public Co Ltd received approval from Myanmar Investment Commission last November to develop the park on 250 acres (101 hectares) of farmland in the rural township, on the vast Ayeyarwady Delta plain about 90 kilometres west of Yangon.

Travel & Tourism

India, Myanmar to Begin Using E-Visas Along Land Border The Irrawaddy 18th Sep 2018
The Ministry of Labor, Immigration and Population and the Myanmar Embassy in India announced on Thursday that checkpoints along the India-Myanmar border will begin using e-visas for travel between the two countries. According to a government announcement, the system will start this month at two checkpoints: the Tamu-Moreh checkpoint, along India’s border with Sagaing Region; and the Rih Khaw Dar-Zokhawthar checkpoint, along India’s border with Chin State.

Visitor growth to Myanmar slows to 2% this year The Myanmar Times 18th Sep 2018
Growth in passenger numbers in the aviation sector stalls this year, as the humanitarian crisis in northern Rakhine has “discouraged potential visitors”, according to a Singapore-based aviation industry consultancy. The report “Myanmar international aviation: overcapacity as tourism growth slows” was produced by Centre for Aviation (CAPA) last month. Visitor numbers from Western Europe fell by more than a quarter in the first half of this year, including a 28pc decline from France, 22pc drop from the UK and 32pc drop from Germany. In the same period, numbers from North America and Oceania decreased by 15pc and 17pc respectively.

New city project by Chinese firm raises hackles in Kayin The Myanmar Times 18th Sep 2018
The Kayin State Border Guard Force and Jilin Yatai Group of China launched the Shwe Kokko new city project in Myawady township in the first week of August over the objections of local residents. The residents are worried that the project’s gambling houses and entertainment establishments could have a corrupting influence on young people, and that its airport, hotels and shopping centres could harm local businesses.

Expert to meet Bagan people, study bid for heritage listing The Myanmar Times 18th Sep 2018
An expert from the International Council on Monuments and Sites will meet this week with local residents to evaluate the country’s application to list the Bagan cultural zone as an international heritage site. U Thu Ra Aung, secretary of the Myanmar Archaeology Association, said the expert will meet with local residents on Wednesday. “The expert will ask people about Bagan’s world heritage status,” he said.

Arrival and departure cards canceled The Myanmar Times 11th Sep 2018
The cancellation is an effort to promote tourism and draw more foreigners to visit the country, the ministry said in the statement. The government expects to apply similar measures like the visa exemption for visitors from Japan and South Korea and visa on arrival for visitors from China, Hong Kong, and Macau. The measures will start on October 1 in line with the 'Look East' policy.

Tour operators barely surviving due to “incredibly shaky” demand The Myanmar Times 7th Sep 2018
The government has vowed to focus on attracting tourists from Southeast Asian countries in order to bring hope to the embattled sector. According to the statistics from the Ministry of Hotel and Tourism until the end of July, Thai tourists topped the ranking, followed by the Chinese. More than 150,000 Chinese tourists visited the country from January to July, which reflects a 34 percent increase in comparison to the same period in 2017.  In contrast, the number of Japan and S Korea travellers remained stable, and the tourism ministry is betting that those numbers will double after the visa free process is granted.