Myanmar Update: January 11, 2019

Myanmar Update | January 11, 2019
Authors: Jack Myint
 
LOOKING AHEAD
 
 
January 28-29: Invest Myanmar Summit: Invest Myanmar Summit 2019 is a collaboration between the Union Government of Myanmar, the Region States of Myanmar and the business community to create a platform for businesses to meet. The two-day event is designed to provide international and local investors the opportunity to discover the investment potential of Myanmar. It is a platform where Regional Government officials will also showcase business potential in their own States. Speakers include State Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, Union Minister for Investment and Foreign Economic Relations U Thaung Tun, Deputy Minister of Planning and Finance U Set Aung, among many others. To register, please click here
 
THE COUNCIL'S TAKE
 
 

Myanmar Allows Foreign Insurance Providers to Operate in the Country

On January 2, the Myanmar Ministry of Planning and Finance (MOPF) announced that it would let up to three foreign life insurance companies operate wholly owned local subsidiaries, while other foreign companies providing life and non-life insurance would have to form joint ventures with local partners to operate in the country. Specific application details and criteria are expected to be announced as early as the beginning of next month. Currently, insurance is not widely available in Myanmar; the penetration rate of auto insurance, which is considered an indicator of achieving emerging market status, is only around 10%. Foreign insurers were allowed to operate in Myanmar starting only in 2013; prior to that, a government-owned insurer dominated the market. The reliance upon local insurers prior to 2013 contributed to a draining of industry know-how from the market. The Government’s decision to allow foreign companies to operate insurance businesses in Myanmar is an attempt to tap these companies’ expertise and increase overall insurance penetration.

Thus far, only three Japanese companies have been granted special permission to operate nonlife insurance businesses within the Thilawa Special Economic Zone near Yangon; however, there is clear interest among foreign insurance providers in the relatively untapped Myanmar market. This year alone, approximately six to eight foreign insurance providers are expected to commence operations in Myanmar via joint ventures, according to U Thaung Han, Secretary of the Myanmar Insurance Association (MIA) and Chairman of CB Insurance. U Thaung Han went on to add that four local private insurance firms, including CB Insurance, have already completed joint ventures with foreign firms. The Council will continue to closely monitor developments in Myanmar’s insurance industry and work closely with the MOPF to notify members of any additional developments.

Myanmar Moves Powerful General Administration Department from Military to Civilian Control

On December 27, the Myanmar Government announced the transfer of the General Administration Department (GAD) from under the Ministry of Home Affairs (MOHA), one of the three key ministries run by Myanmar’s military, to the newly-created and civilian-run Ministry of the Office of the Union Government (MOOUG). For over three decades, the GAD has been one of the most powerful institutions in Myanmar as it has direct governing authority over the day-to-day operations of all district, township, ward, and village administrations. As per the 2008 Constitution, it serves as the primary link between the Union Government and the State and Region Governments, provides administrative and coordination functions for all government offices and Parliament office, manages fiscal planning and financial management of the State and Region Governments, and is tasked with “supporting government security efforts” – which includes, but is not limited to, reporting on basic demographic data, population movements, security incidents, and enforcing civil laws and settling local disputes. The heads of the GAD for each State and Region (at the Deputy Director General level) concurrently serve as the Executive Secretaries of their respective State and Regional Governments and report to the Director General/Permanent Secretary of the GAD head office in Nay Pyi Taw.

The breadth and depth of the GAD’s functions and influence across Myanmar is well outlined in The Asia Foundation’s report, “Administrating the State in Myanmar”, which can be accessed here. The move to shift the GAD from MOHA’s control to MOOUG’s is a significant step for the NLD-led civilian government, and could be seen as a welcome development. As a result of the move, the Government will have greater oversight and accountability over a majority of Myanmar’s bureaucracy, which was not possible when GAD was under military control.

The MOOUG was created in November 2017, with U Thaung Tun, who also concurrently serves as National Security Advisor, as its inaugural Union Minister. In December 2018, a new ministry for Investment and Foreign Economic Relations was established, and U Thaung Tun was reassigned to head it. His replacement to head the MOOUG is U Min Thu, a retired Colonel from the Myanmar Air Force, who has served in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of the President’s Office in various senior positions. A few weeks after U Min Thu’s appointment, it was announced that the GAD will be housed under MOOUG. On January 3, the incumbent head of the GAD, U Tin Myint, a former captain in the Myanmar army, was promoted from his position of Permanent Secretary at MOHA to Deputy Minister of MOOUG and tasked with continuing his duties to lead the GAD. The appointment of two former military men to head the MOOUG shows the NLD Government’s desire to sustain some sort of continuity, while appealing to the military so as to not tip the scale in Myanmar’s delicate balance of power. The decision to move GAD to MOOUG from MOHA has met with substantial resistance from the military and the opposition Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP). Regardless, increasing the Government’s oversight capabilities over the majority of Myanmar’s bureaucracy is a positive change and one of the most significant reforms undertaken by the current Government .

 
 
 
IN THIS UPDATE
 
 
Regional Affairs
Myanmar, Thai universities to cooperate in education sector - China.org.cn

National Affairs
State Counsellor underscores need for unity among ethnic groups
Govt now processing 40 mining proposals
NLD calls bureaucracy ‘stumbling block’ in reforms
Powerful and Expansive—Infographic Explainer of the General Administration Department
Govt Announces Transfer of Military-Controlled Dept to Civilian Ministry
Facebook takes down more Myanmar accounts over military links
U.S. House of Representatives approves resolution calling persecution of Myanmar Muslims a ‘genocide'
The artery of Yangon
Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi calls for peace in speech which avoids mention of Rohingya crisis

Customs
Border trade increases by over $ 200 million
India Opens Gate to Bring ASEAN Closer Through Myanmar
Myanmar introduces bonded warehousing, lowers raw material import duties

Defense & Security
Myanmar army to launch 'crackdown' on Rakhine rebels: govt
Top security officials discuss Russia-Myanmar security cooperation

Economics
Myanmar permits 43 foreign investment enterprises in Yangon region in FY 2018-19
Ease investment restrictions to revive growth: Korean businesses
Investing in Myanmar – not when but how
Myanmar to hold regional investment forum in Rakhine state - Xinhua | English.news.cn
Myanmar's urban dwellers get a taste of credit
EU's threat to scrap trade preferences spurs Myanmar's reforms
Myanmar’s economy depends on Rakhines stability: trade body
SOEs face continued criticisms for lack of oversight
2017-18 debt report submitted to Pyidaungsu Hluttaw

Energy
Hlawgar power plant to get upgrades
Deal signed for hydropower project
Prospects for oil and gas in 2019
Myanmar plans to sell natural gas produced from PTTEP block mainly for local use

Financial Services
Myanmar Opens Insurance Industry to Foreign Companies

Food & Agriculture
Myanmar raises efforts to export fishery products
EU set to slap tariffs on rice from Cambodia, Myanmar
Myanmar exports over 215,000 cattle in two years

Health & Life Sciences
Four donors commit more than $215 Million to improving health in Myanmar’s hardest-to-reach places - Myanmar
Free cataract surgery to more areas in Myanmar’s Mandalay
Myanmar tops neighbours in fight against diseases linked to illegal drug use
Sweden contributes US$43 million to healthcare in Myanmar – ScandAsia

ICT
High e-commerce potential, but growth stunted, for now
Digital landscape rapidly changing
Telenor completes NB-IoT trials in Myanmar
ZTE Myanmar sees a shift towards fixed broadband, 5G infrastructure in next two to three years
iMyanmarHouse.com introduces online applications for home loans
Parliament to Debate $95-Million S. Korean Loan for Gov’t Data Center

Infrastructure
Bridge project expected to boost China-Myanmar trade
AirAsia still planning to enter Myanmar
Bridge project stirs property prices in Dala
New Thanlyin bridge project gets go-ahead
Yangon commuter train gets 54 billion kyat upgrade
Parliament Approves Loan from China for Purchase of Chinese Trains

Insurance
Up to eight insurance JVs expected in Myanmar this fiscal year: officials
Myanmar ready to open door to foreign insurers

Legislation
Traders hope for a boost from new gem laws

Travel & Tourism
“Burmese Python” appointed Myanmar’s tourism ambassador
Myanmar’s tourism slump
Government expects more Japanese tourists in 2019
 
ARTICLE CLIPS
 
 
Regional Affairs

Myanmar, Thai universities to cooperate in education sector - China.org.cn China.org 2nd Dec 2018
Universities of Myanmar and Thailand have vowed to cooperate in education sector following a Thai delegation's recent visit to a Myanmar university in Myeik, Myanmar's southern Taninthayi region, the official Global New Light of Myanmar reported Sunday. Myanmar's Myeik University and Thailand's Phetchaburi Rajabhat University are preparing to sign a memorandum of understanding (MoU) in Jan.-Feb. next year on the extensive collaboration in education, cultural exchange programs and research.

National Affairs

State Counsellor underscores need for unity among ethnic groups The Myanmar Times 10th Jan 2019
The construction of roads and bridges and power infrastructure in northern Myanmar is aimed at further strengthening the relations and cooperation among ethnic people, which is very important in national development, said State Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi. “I want you to know that our government is trying at its best, with the spirit of goodwill, to fulfill needs of all people living in this union. What I said doesn’t mean that we have tried to build a good reputation but want a warmer and stronger relation between us,” she said at the inauguration of the Upper Namhtwam Hydropower Plant in Kachin State, yesterday. “Projects may be big or small but their value depends on good intention and correct management. It is our government’s duty to have a spirit of goodwill. To ensure correct management and technology is responsibility of the Ministry of Electricity and Energy,” she added. She pledged to provide children adequate nutrition and education as they are the future leaders of the country. Daw Aung San Suu Kyi lamented the huge gap between the rich and the poor in the country and hopes that this will be reduced in the near future. She said underscored the importance of good infrastructure for the development of the country.

Govt now processing 40 mining proposals The Myanmar Times 10th Jan 2019
The Ministry of Natural Resources and Environmental Conservation (MONREC) has processed a total of 40 proposals for mineral exploration at large and medium sized mining blocks in Myanmar, its permanent secretary U Min Min Oo said. Feedback on whether any exploration activities will have an environmental or social impact is being sought from the state and regional authorities. The developments come after MONREC in July last year permitted both local and foreign miners to submit exploration proposals to the government. Proposals to explore in large and medium sized mineral tracts will be processed by the Union government, while those for small-scale blocks will be processed by the state or regional authorities.

NLD calls bureaucracy ‘stumbling block’ in reforms The Myanmar Times 9th Jan 2019
A spokesperson for the ruling party has blamed “some in the bureaucracy” for the country’s poor economic reform, saying excessive redtape is a “stumbling block in Myanmar’s democratic transition”. U Myo Nyunt, spokesperson of the National League for Democracy (NLD) party, made the comments during an interview with Chinese media group Caixin’s subsidiary publication Globus at the NLD’s headquarters in November, 2018. He said the most pressing need for Myanmar is to “secure some economic breakthroughs” to “alleviate the economic woes for the masses... I hope our colleagues [in government] can tackle this issue in the near future.”

Powerful and Expansive—Infographic Explainer of the General Administration Department The Irrawaddy 28th Dec 2018
For 30 years, the military-controlled General Administration Department has been the backbone of Myanmar’s public administration. From Union to village level, the GAD is authorized to support government security efforts—such as imposing bans on activities that pose a threat to rule of law and stability or to sue a person who commits arms-related crimes—while reporting relevant information back to Naypyitaw. These include population movements, security incidents, and basic demographic data. Moreover, the GAD still has power to enforce some civil laws. The GAD’s scrutiny and interferences have long been criticized by human rights and political activists who claim the department is basically a tool to oppress their movements while providing on-the-ground information from across the country to the home affairs ministry which is controlled by the military.

Govt Announces Transfer of Military-Controlled Dept to Civilian Ministry The Irrawaddy 21st Dec 2018
The military-controlled General Administration Department (GAD) will soon be transferred to the Ministry of the Office of the Union Government, President’s Office spokesperson U Zaw Htay said Friday. The plan was announced at a press conference in Naypyitaw. The GAD is currently a branch of the Ministry of Home Affairs, which is one of three ministries under the control of the country’s powerful military. The GAD has long been central to the functioning of government administration across the country, as its officials oversee local governance in both rural and urban areas and deal with people’s day-to-day needs, from registering births and deaths to mediating disputes. Some lawmakers have complained that its centralized control of government bureaucracy has been one of the main obstacles to reform. U Zaw Htay said the move would implement the pledges President U Win Myint made in April to reform the government from the bottom up and to prepare the country for a federal system by reducing central control and adopting the suggestions of Myanmar’s states and regions.

Facebook takes down more Myanmar accounts over military links Reuters 18th Dec 2018
Facebook Inc (FB.O) has removed hundreds of additional accounts, pages and groups in Myanmar from its social networks after discovering what it called “coordinated inauthentic behavior” and links to the country’s military. The social media giant had previously removed accounts, including that of Myanmar’s army chief, after criticism it had failed to act on hate speech amid violence against Rohingya Muslims in the country. Facebook said in a blog post late on Tuesday that it had removed 425 pages, 17 groups and 135 accounts from its social network and 15 accounts from its Instagram photo-sharing service. It was continuing to investigate other pages that “mislead others about who they are, or what they’re doing” and could breach the company’s policy on misrepresentation, Facebook said.

U.S. House of Representatives approves resolution calling persecution of Myanmar Muslims a ‘genocide' Washington Post 13th Dec 2018
The House overwhelmingly approved a resolution Thursday to label the deadly persecution of a Muslim minority group in Myanmar by the country’s military a “genocide,” in sharp contrast to President Trump’s public silence on the matter. The bill, approved by a vote of 394 to 1, also calls on Myanmar’s government leaders, including state counselor Aung San Suu Kyi, to pardon two Reuters journalists who have been jailed for over a year for their coverage of the violence, which resulted in more than 700,000 Rohingya Muslims fleeing the country last year. Though estimates vary, one independent report this year said more than 43,000 Rohingya parents are missing and presumed to have been killed.

The artery of Yangon Frontier Myanmar 4th Dec 2018
“The goal is to make the pipeline more accessible and more liveable, and to empower the community,” said Petit-Velasco. The group says it is aiming to create simple, functional, cost-efficient designs for temporary bamboo installations made by Myanmar companies. “It’s a new way to see urban development in Yangon,” said Monnier, in contrast to glossy shopping malls. The development and design of further installations along the pipeline is open to all, the group said.

Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi calls for peace in speech which avoids mention of Rohingya crisis The Straits Times 1st Dec 2018
Myanmar's civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi, who is facing international criticism over her country's crackdown on Rohingya Muslims, called on Saturday (Dec 1) for "a culture of peace" to end conflict between communities. The Nobel Peace prize winner did not mention the Rohingya crisis - which has led the United Nations to call for a genocide investigation - in her keynote address to an international meeting organised by a group linked to the Unification Church.

Customs

Border trade increases by over $ 200 million Eleven Media Group Co., Ltd 2nd Dec 2018
From October 1 to November 23 of 2018-2019 fiscal year, the total border trade hit US$ 1229.143 million, up US$ 204.844 million compared with the same period last year, according to the Commerce Ministry. During two months in last FY, the border trade reached US$ 1024.299 million. Myanmar has opened 17 border trade camps along its border. Among them, Muse border trade camp in Myanmar-China border and Myawady border trade camp in Myanmar-Thai border sees the highest trade volume, according to the Commerce Ministry.

India Opens Gate to Bring ASEAN Closer Through Myanmar Sputnik 4th Jan 2019
The newly-inaugurated integrated check-post (ICP) is an important part of the 1,360-kilometre-long India-Myanmar-Thailand Trilateral Highway, which has been touted as a rival to China's One-Belt-One-Road (OBOR) project. In a major development, India has opened a high-capacity traffic-handling integrated check-post (ICP) at Moreh in the northeastern state of Manipur; it is positioning the customs desk and border crossing internationally as a gateway to the ASEAN countries: neighbouring Myanmar as well as Indonesia, Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia, the Philippines, Vietnam, Cambodia, Brunei and Laos.

Myanmar introduces bonded warehousing, lowers raw material import duties The Myanmar Times 17th Dec 2018
The aim is to align local customs warehousing procedures with international standards and reduce import restrictions on Myanmar goods, the cabinet minister explained during a meeting with Vice President U Myint Swe and business representatives.  The tax reductions will involve lowering the advanced income tax burden and simplifying the logistics processes to save time.  Bonded warehouses allow storage of foreign cargo owned by domestic businesses which are locally registered before paying duties, whereas SEZ warehouses opens up the area to foreign companies as well. The finance minister added that the authorities will lower the import duty on raw materials and raise the duty on finished products. “ The scheme will help improve market competitiveness, attract more investors, and create more jobs. It will also bridge the gap between import and export businesses,” he said.

Defense & Security

Myanmar army to launch 'crackdown' on Rakhine rebels: govt Frontier Myanmar 7th Jan 2019
Myanmar has called on its military to "launch operations" against ethnic Rakhine rebels behind a deadly attack on four police stations last week, a government spokesman said Monday, as a surge of violence forces thousands more from their homes. The country's troubled western Rakhine State has seen a series of clashes in recent weeks between security forces and the Arakan Army (AA), an armed group calling for more autonomy for the state's ethnic Rakhine Buddhist population. The area is one of the poorest in Myanmar and is scarred by deep ethnic and religious hatred. The latest violence by ethnic Rakhine rebels culminated on Friday — Myanmar's Independence Day — in brazen pre-dawn raids on four police posts in Buthidaung Township near the Bangladesh border.  Authorities said that the attack by hundreds of militants left 13 police officers dead and nine wounded before the Tatmadaw was able to provide back-up.  The AA said that three of its fighters had been killed, accusing the military of using the police stations as a base from which to fire heavy artillery.

Top security officials discuss Russia-Myanmar security cooperation TASS 4th Dec 2018
Russian Security Council Secretary Nikolai Patrushev has held a meeting with Myanmar’s National Security Adviser and Minister of Investment and Foreign Economic Relations U Thaung Tun, the Council said in a statement. "Nikolai Patrushev and U Thaung Tun discussed a wide range of issues related to Russia-Myanmar security cooperation, as well as interaction on the international stage," the statement reads.

Economics

Myanmar permits 43 foreign investment enterprises in Yangon region in FY 2018-19 Xinhua 10th Jan 2019
Myanmar's Yangon Region Investment Committee (YRIC) has permitted a total of 43 foreign enterprises with 56.2 million U.S. dollars' investments as of Jan. 9 in present fiscal year 2018-19 which started in October, the official Global New Light of Myanmar reported on Thursday. Foreign investments mostly entered Yangon region's manufacturing sector covering pharmaceuticals, vehicle, container boxes and garment production on Cutting, Making and Packing (CMP) basis. From Oct. 1 to Jan. 9, the region also attracted 10 billion kyats (6.57 million U.S. dollars) from six domestic projects and over 23,250 job opportunities were created by both permitted foreign and local enterprises during the period. Regionally, Yangon region attracts 60 percent of both local and foreign investments, followed by Mandalay with 30 percent and the rest flows into other regions and states.

Ease investment restrictions to revive growth: Korean businesses The Myanmar Times 7th Jan 2019
While Korean investors are looking to expand in Myanmar’s manufacturing and infrastructure sectors, the economy can only grow if the government puts an end to discrimination against foreign investments, a Korean business leader said. In December 2018, the Myanmar Korean Chamber of Commerce and Industry (MKCCI) became the latest business group to formally open its doors in the country. Figures from the Directorate of Investment and Company Administration (DICA) at the end of November 2018 placed South Korea as the fifth-largest source of approved foreign investment in Myanmar, amounting to around US$254 million worth of foreign direct investments (FDI). Big players include CJ Feed, Lotte Group, Korea Land and Housing Corporation and GS Construction.

Investing in Myanmar – not when but how The Business Times 2nd Jan 2019
DECADES of stunted development under military rule gave way to Asia’s newest democracy after victory by Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) in 2015. This, along with the lifting of country-based sanctions by the US government, was supposed to be the turning point for Myanmar, thought to be the “last economic frontier” in Asean. Four years later, however, the economy has been underperforming and confidence in the government is low. Sluggish growth can be seen in various sectors. Construction and real estate have been adversely affected by office rental declines and low take-up rates for newly constructed condominiums in Yangon. Hotel occupancies are also trending downwards, and premium hotels have had to drop their room rates as business travellers declined.

Myanmar to hold regional investment forum in Rakhine state - Xinhua | English.news.cn Xinhua 1st Jan 2019
Myanmar will hold regional investment forum in Rakhine state in February this year, the official Global New Light of Myanmar reported Tuesday. Aiming to seek investment for development in the region, the investment forum, organized by Myanmar Investment Commission, will be held at Ngapali Beach on Feb. 21 to 23. Under the new Myanmar Investment Law which was introduced on Aug. 1 last year, tax exemption and relief will be granted to investors depending on the development of the regions and states, allowing the investors in far-flung areas enjoy tax breaks of up to seven years. Also, investment with capital not exceeding 5 million U.S. dollars can be permitted by regional and states authorities of the Directorate of Investment and Company Administration, according to the law.

Myanmar's urban dwellers get a taste of credit Nikkei Asian Review 23rd Dec 2018
More consumers in urban Myanmar are taking out loans to buy electronics, cars, even homes. A purple logo -- that of Japan's Aeon Financial Service, a provider of small loans to consumers who pay back the money in installments -- is becoming easy to spot at one Yangon shopping center, especially at appliance and cellphone stores. Aeon Microfinance (Myanmar) received a license to provide small loans in 2013. It now has 630 affiliated stores, more than triple the 200 it had in 2016. About 70% of its borrowers use the service to buy cellphones. Previously, cash was the only payment option in Myanmar, even when buying a home. Now nearly every Myanmar citizen who works for a company is eligible to take out a small loan, according to an Aeon Microfinance representative.

EU's threat to scrap trade preferences spurs Myanmar's reforms Nikkei Asian Review 16th Dec 2018
Economic reform is getting a second wind in Myanmar as the government tries to lure back foreign investors scared away by reports of human rights abuses against the country's Rohingya Muslim minority. The government has announced the easing of restrictions on foreign banks and the creation of a new ministry to oversee foreign investment in an effort to restore investor confidence. But while the Rohingya issue may encourage reform, a growing sense that the economy is in crisis is putting pressure on the government to resolve it. Some previously reluctant business leaders are even beginning to speak out. In early December, Yangon, the country's commercial capital, hosted a trade show for sewing machine makers and related manufacturers. Textiles are an important export for Myanmar, which has lower labor costs than its neighbors. But according to an executive at a Japanese company that took part in the event, moves to relocate clothing factories to Myanmar are slowing because of "the Rohingya issue and rising wages." The country recently increased the minimum wage.

Myanmar’s economy depends on Rakhines stability: trade body The Myanmar Times 14th Dec 2018
Despite rich resources and good geographical location, Rakhine State has many challenges to overcome if it is to attract foreign investments, people in the business community say. “Foreign investments have slowed due to conflict in the state. The economy of Rakhine needs to be promoted first and only when it is conducive, will problems such as international pressure, inclusive development and conflict be reduced,” said U Tun Tun Naing, member of the Union of Myanmar Federation of Chambers of Commerce and Industries (UMFCCI). “The turmoil in Rakhine can be partly attributed to low levels of education in the state, so education must be promoted. With no job opportunities, there is no income .If livelihoods could be improved, there would be less conflict,” he said.

SOEs face continued criticisms for lack of oversight The Myanmar Times 4th Dec 2018
Experts argued that this policy should be reviewed while also putting proper scrutiny on the management of SOEs and whether those SOEs are the right way of doing business for the government. “There needs to be a re-definition of what an SOE is. Some organisations that recognise themselves as SOEs are not being run like normal business entities. These cases must be reviewed. It they corporatise without proper review, it will take the form of an enterprise. These cases should be reviewed by bringing forward clear policies, regulations and law,” said U Arkar Hein, project coordinator of the policy think tank Renaissance Institute.

2017-18 debt report submitted to Pyidaungsu Hluttaw The Myanmar Times 4th Dec 2018
U Maung Maung Win, deputy finance minister, submitted the government’s annual debt report for fiscal year 2017-18 to Pyidaungsu Hluttaw on November 29. In 2017-18, a total of US$1917.399 million were borrowed from eight organisations by foreign loan agreements. Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) is the biggest lender. Those loans will be used in 15 projects. During that fiscal year, the World Bank extended most loans and the highest debt repayment was made to China.

Energy

Hlawgar power plant to get upgrades Eleven Media Group Co., Ltd 3rd Dec 2018
Ministry of Electricity and Energy will upgrade Hlawgar power plant before the summer of 2019. Upon completion, the power plant can generate an additional 336,000 kilowatt-hours a day.   Hlawgar power plant is one of the important power plants in Yangon. The commercial operation of the power plant launched in 1995. Now it can generate about 70 megawatt on average even though it has an installed capacity of 154 mw. The power plant is in need of major repairs and maintenance.

Deal signed for hydropower project The Myanmar Times 1st Jan 2019
The Ministry of Electricity and Energy has announced the signing of a power purchase agreement (PPA) for the Upper Baluchaung hydropower project with Neo Energy Oasis Co Ltd, the builder of the project. The PPA was signed between Electric Power Generation Enterprise (EPGE), a unit of the ministry and Neo Energy Oasis on December 28. Within three years of the signing of the PPA, the project will be able to feed power to the national grid, said Union Minister for Electricity and Energy U Win Khaing. The Upper Baluchaung project, which started in 2011, is being implemented under a build, operate and transfer (BOT) deal and is now 45.5 pc completed. The hydropower project features two power plants with a total capacity is 30.4megawatts. The installed capacity of the first power plant is 20.4mw and 10mw for the second.

Prospects for oil and gas in 2019 The Myanmar Times 1st Jan 2019
A new draft of the petroleum law has been tabled. After the bill is amended, Hluttaw will enact in. However, before in comes into force, it can be amended if the people provide suggestions. Will the new law be effective in the case of the oil block tenders that will be called soon and for the tenders called before the law is passed?  These are questions that must be asked. Traditionally, the old law is overshadowed by the new.  It is important that the amendments make the landscape attractive to investors. If the government wants to encourage investments, it needs to think more about the benefits for both the country and investors. Restrictions need to be eased as it is important for the country to receive taxes from investors while streamlining the process for investors to bring money into the economy. The question of whether there will there be interest in new oil and gas blocks should also be looked into. It’s important to note that the new petroleum law should provide more benefits for investors. Only by doing so will foreign investments flow into the country. If the conditions are difficult for them, they will be reluctant to invest. It’s crucial to find more new oil and gas fields. Money should not to be spent on uncertain fields. 

Myanmar plans to sell natural gas produced from PTTEP block mainly for local use Eleven Media Group Co., Ltd 14th Dec 2018
Myanmar is planning to sell natural gas produced from PTTEP offshore block (MD-7) mainly for local use, sources said. The PTTEP, cooperating with Myanmar Oil and Gas Enterprise (MOGE), held a public talk to discuss and explain about environmental impact assessment (EIA) test with locals from Myeik on December 13. They met with locals in Dawei, Kawthoung and Myeik which are the nearest towns with the offshore block to conduct public poll about the project. The MD-7 is located about 640 kilometers from Yangon, 390 kilometers from Dawei, 300 kilometers from Myeik and 230 kilometers from Kawthoung and it is located in the offshore fishing blocks.

Financial Services

Myanmar Opens Insurance Industry to Foreign Companies Lexology 3rd Jan 2019
On January 2, 2019, Myanmar's Ministry of Planning and Finance issued an announcement inviting local and foreign insurers to submit their Expressions of Interest (EOIs) and/or Requests for Proposals (RFPs) for carrying out life and non-life insurance businesses in the country. Successful EOIs and RFPs will ultimately lead to the grant of licenses to operate in the jurisdiction. The following licenses are available: Life Insurance Up to three licenses for life insurers operating as 100% foreign-owned subsidiaries. Licenses for foreign insurers with a life/composite representative office in Myanmar to form a joint venture with local life insurers. Non-life Insurance Licenses for non-life insurers with a non-life/composite representative office in Myanmar to form a joint venture with local non-life insurers. The government has been vocal about reforming Myanmar's insurance industry, which is currently restricted to 11 local companies. This announcement is a major step toward such reform, opening the rapidly developing country to the international insurance sector, and unlocking a market of over 53 million potential customers.

Food & Agriculture

Myanmar raises efforts to export fishery products The Myanmar Times 10th Jan 2019
Two fish processing plants — TT Cold Store Factory and A&N Foods (Myanmar) Co. Ltd — have been granted permits to export fish caught in the wild to the European Union, according to a report by state media. The Fisheries Department, under the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock, and Irrigation, is working with the fish processors and exporters to ensure Myanmar fishery products meet the rules and regulations of importing countries, including the EU, the report said. 21 local fish factories have been given permission to export their products to the EU so far. TT Cold Store and A&N Foods were permitted to place their products in the EU market after meeting the requirements.  However, Myanmar currently does not meet the standards required to export farmed fish, as local fish farms are not prepared to guarantee their products are free from biochemical residues. Residue tests have to be conducted at each stage of production, which includes hatching, farming, feeding and processing.  ber.

EU set to slap tariffs on rice from Cambodia, Myanmar Reuters 3rd Dec 2018
The European Commission will on Tuesday propose imposing tariffs on rice coming from Cambodia and Myanmar to curb a surge in imports that it believes is damaging to European producers. The proposed "safeguard" measures would apply for three years, setting a duty of 175 euros ($198.84) per tonne in the first year, dropping to 150 euros in the second and 125 euros in year three, according to people familiar with the plan.

Myanmar exports over 215,000 cattle in two years The Myanmar Times 3rd Dec 2018
Commerce Ministry Deputy Minister U Aung Htoo told the Lower House that from December 2016 to November 28 this year the country exported 186,701 cows and 28,632 buffaloes.  U Aung Htoo said the ministry has worked on signing an agreement between the Myanmar Livestock, Breeding and Veterinary Department and the General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine of the People’s Republic of China, to prove that the country’s exported cattle are disease-free. 

Health & Life Sciences

Four donors commit more than $215 Million to improving health in Myanmar’s hardest-to-reach places - Myanmar ReliefWeb 4th Dec 2018
The United Kingdom, Sweden, United States and Switzerland have committed more than $215 million to improving the health of Myanmar’s most vulnerable people through the UNOPS-managed Access to Health Fund. Myanmar’s health system continues to improve, but significant health inequities remain. People living in conflict-affected areas are likely to experience poorer health outcomes, while those living in remote or hard-to-reach places are also more likely to suffer.

Free cataract surgery to more areas in Myanmar’s Mandalay Khmer Times 2nd Dec 2018
Medical teams of Myanmar and China have began launching free eye surgery to 200 patients in Myanmar’s Mandalay region. It is the fifth time the medical teams have been conducting eye surgery under the free cataract surgery programme. To date, about 1,000 Myanmar patients have benefited from the programme, Wan Lijun, chairman of All-China Federation of Returned Overseas Chinese, said.

Myanmar tops neighbours in fight against diseases linked to illegal drug use The Myanmar Times 28th Dec 2018
The Global State of Harm Reduction 2018 report released last month by UK-based Harm Reduction International (HRI) said the government has invested more than US$1 million (K1.57 billion) every year in the programme since 2016. The report details harm reduction programmes and policies adopted by countries around the world. “This commitment places Myanmar in a public health leadership role relative to many other low- and middle-income countries,” Naomi Burke-Shyne, HRI executive director, said in an email. 

Sweden contributes US$43 million to healthcare in Myanmar – ScandAsia ScandAsia 4th Dec 2018
Sweden grants US$43 million (SEK385 million) to the Access to Health fund for Myanmar. Access to Health is a large fund handled by UNOPS (United Nations Office for Project Services). With support of Sweden, the United States, the United Kingdom and Switzerland, the fund will continue to build and strengthen the healthcare in Myanmar between 2019 and 2023, for a total of 215 million dollars. “We strive to include the most marginalized people in the development. Our support for Access to Health combines the most important parts of our development cooperation in Myanmar”, says Anders Frankenberg from Yangon Assistance Council, according to Sida. Sweden has raised sexual and reproductive health as a separate point for what the fund will work with.

ICT

High e-commerce potential, but growth stunted, for now The Myanmar Times 6th Jan 2019
On November 11, 2018, online shoppers in Myanmar purchased goods worth US$90,000 on the Internet within the first hour of Alibaba Group’s global 11.11 sale. It was the first time the Chinese e-commerce giant had opened up the annual event to Myanmar, where just 1 percent of the population is exposed to e-commerce. Alibaba knows this and in May last year secured a foothold in Myanmar via the acquisition of Daraz Group, which operates the country’s largest e-commerce platform shop.com.mm.

Digital landscape rapidly changing The Myanmar Times 2nd Jan 2019
Today’s smartphones can now show people what apps they use most frequently, how much time they spend on them and remind them to take a break. Moreover some mobile applications can have different settings for use by adults and children and limit applications and games by age, because many children use their parents’ phones. “Nowadays people spend more and more time on their phones. It can be up four to five hours a day for city people. People in the phone industry can even spend longer than that. This is change from even just a few years ago. Many people, both adults and the young, spend less time outdoors being active. Give a phone to a child and they can spend the whole day on it, and this can be a problem, “ said Johansson Zhang, a senior marketing manager for the Huawei Consumer Business Group.

Telenor completes NB-IoT trials in Myanmar Mobile World Live 12th Dec 2018
Telenor Myanmar worked with Ericsson to conduct NB-IoT trials on its LTE network in the city of Mandalay, claiming to be the first in the country to test IoT networks. The operator, the second largest in the country by subscribers, said the tests involved IoT applications including connected vehicles and ambient sensors.

ZTE Myanmar sees a shift towards fixed broadband, 5G infrastructure in next two to three years The Myanmar Times 4th Dec 2018
Yan Xiao, Vice President of ZTE Corporation, CEO of ZTE Myanmar, believes the next two years will mark a crucial turning point for the country’s telecommunications industry. Driven by demand for high-quality video content, competition will intensify, forcing the sector to upgrade and innovate to keep up with the pace of change. “We are already seeing the demand trends change. These days, people are watching programs like Myanmar Idol and The Voice of Myanmar on their mobile devices. They are streaming movies and sharing high-quality content. The available infrastructure and services to support the higher levels of data consumption in Myanmar will no longer be sufficient,” Mr Yan told The Myanmar Times. 

iMyanmarHouse.com introduces online applications for home loans Eleven Media Group Co., Ltd 4th Dec 2018
Online applications are now available to seek home loans and there have been over 100 applicants within days after iMyanmarHouse.com announced online application. This is the first online application to seek home loans launched by the website.

Parliament to Debate $95-Million S. Korean Loan for Gov’t Data Center The Irrawaddy 3rd Dec 2018
The government has sought Parliament’s approval for a nearly US$95-million (150.7 billion kyats) loan from South Korea to build a centralized e-governance data center. Minister of Transportation and Communications U Thant Sin Maung explained to the Union Parliament on Monday the government’s plan to establish the e-Government Integrated Data Center (eGIDC) in Naypyitaw and a backup center in Thanlyin Township near Yangon.

Infrastructure

Bridge project expected to boost China-Myanmar trade The Myanmar Times 10th Jan 2019
The construction of a new road and bridge near the existing Goke Hteik railway viaduct in western Shan State will begin this year, the Ministry of Construction has announced. The major infrastructure project along the Mandalay-Muse road, a significant border-trade route, is expected to significantly boost the transportation of goods between China and Myanmar once it is completed. The Gote Twin section of the road between Nawngcho and Goke Hteik, along the Mandalay-Muse road, was built during colonial times and the rail bridge on the route is now over 100 years old. The road is also narrow and has many curves and turns. Currently, trucks can take up to three hours to travel the Goke Twin stretch.  During the rainy season, trucks can skid and cause traffic jams, said U Sai Kyaw, general secretary of Rice Merchants Association of Mandalay, adding that the stretch is one of the areas that see the highest number of accidents in western Shan State. 

AirAsia still planning to enter Myanmar The Myanmar Times 10th Jan 2019
Low-cost airline AirAsia remains committed to expanding into Myanmar as part of its regional strategy in Indo-China, Riad Asmat, the firm’s CEO, said. “Indo-China is still very untouched in terms of the possibilities for AirAsia. That includes Myanmar, Laos and Cambodia. For example, we currently fly around seven destinations and 13 routes. We want to explore more for the right destinations and the right airports in 2019. Exploring and expanding into Indo-China is our goal,” he said.  According to the Malaysian airline, it claimed about 48 percent market share in Myanmar and ran a total of 113,113 flights from January 1 to October 31 between the two ASEAN member states. Mr Asmat’s latest comments is good news for Myanmar.

Bridge project stirs property prices in Dala The Myanmar Times 7th Jan 2019
Property prices in Dala Township are rising after construction of a bridge linking Dala to downtown Yangon was finally given the green light on December 24, 2018 after six years of deliberation. Expected to be completed in three and a half years, the US$138 million South Korea-Myanmar Friendship Bridge, will connect Phone Gyi Street, in Lanmadaw Township, Yangon and Bo Min Yaung Street in Dala Township, making travel between Dala and downtown Yangon much easier. First announced in 2012, under the U Thein Sein government, the project was suspended due to issues involving land and bridge measurements. As a result, Dala had been left behind in terms of development compared to Yangon. Now though, locals expect more progress will come to Dala after the bridge is completed and property prices near Dala are already rising, say real estate agents. 

New Thanlyin bridge project gets go-ahead The Myanmar Times 4th Jan 2019
The acceptance of a loan from the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) which will be used for the construction of a second bridge across the Bago River connecting Thanlyin and Yangon has been approved, said a Pyithu Hluttaw MP U Lwin Ko Latt. The first instalment on the JICA loan totals US$36 million (K56.1 billion). “The budget for the new bridge has been approved following the signing of the agreement for the project in July 2017. Now we have received the first instalment worth of K56 billion. The next instalments will follow annually,” he said.

Yangon commuter train gets 54 billion kyat upgrade Burma News International 3rd Dec 2018
The Yangon commuter train railroad has been upgraded since February with 54.514 billion kyat from Union budget with the Danyingon-Insein sector reportedly completed. Currently the outer rail track of the Danyingon-Insein sector is being upgraded and the officials from Myanmar Railway inspected the upgrading works in an on-site inspection on November 30 in the morning.

Parliament Approves Loan from China for Purchase of Chinese Trains The Irrawaddy 3rd Dec 2018
Myanmar’s parliament has approved the government’s plan to borrow 80 million yuan ($11.6 million) from China to be used for the purchase of railway carriages from the lender. A total of 28 carriages—14 ordinary and 14 first class—will be purchased for use on the Yangon-Mandalay railroad. According to the Ministry of Transport and Communications, more than 1,000 commuters use the route daily, with one carriage earning as much as 3 million kyats ($1,900) a day.

Insurance

Up to eight insurance JVs expected in Myanmar this fiscal year: officials The Myanmar Times 9th Jan 2019
Six to eight foreign insurance providers are expected to enter the Myanmar market via joint ventures with local providers this fiscal year, U Thaung Han, secretary of the Myanmar Insurance Association (MIA) and chair of CB Insurance told The Myanmar Times. On January 2, the Ministry of Planning and Finance (MOPF) officially permitted foreign insurance providers to open for business in Myanmar.  Life insurance providers will be given two options to operate. The first option allows not more than three licenses for foreign life insurers to operate as 100 percent wholly owned subsidiaries.  The second allows foreign life insurers with a representative office in Myanmar to form a joint venture with a local life insurer. Non-life insurance providers with rep offices in Myanmar will be allowed to form a JV with local non-life insurers.

Myanmar ready to open door to foreign insurers Nikkei Asian Review 2nd Jan 2019
Myanmar is bringing foreign companies into its insurance market, allowing both life and nonlife insurers to do business here. A plan announced Wednesday by the Ministry of Planning and Finance would let up to three overseas-based life insurers have wholly owned local subsidiaries, while other life insurers and nonlife insurers would operate via joint ventures with local partners. Specific screening criteria will be released as early as this month, according to sources familiar with the matter. Insurance is not very widespread in Myanmar. Even for auto insurance, often an emerging-market bellwether, the penetration rate is only about 10%. With a government-owned insurer dominating for years, private-sector players were only allowed into the market in 2013. Yet homegrown insurers lack industry know-how. The government wants to tap foreign expertise to help popularize insurance. Hong Kong-based life insurer AIA Group is among those hoping to operate wholly owned businesses in Myanmar.

Legislation

Traders hope for a boost from new gem laws The Myanmar Times 9th Jan 2019
The new amendments to the law governing the extraction of gemstones in Myanmar are expected to offer relief for the gem industry in Mandalay. Industry insiders interviewed by Myanmar Times said they hope the market in Mandalay will bounce back this year after the Pyidaungsu Hluttaw on December 18 amended the tax rates and restrictions on the opening of new mining areas. Under the amendments, medium and small-scale mining businesses in Hpakant, Kachin State, are permitted to operate after paying the appropriate taxes on mining blocks to the government. Large-scale mining of gems using heavy machinery will remain restricted.  The requirements will control the supply of high-quality gemstones in the local market, while drawing investments and maintaining jobs at the same time. 

Travel & Tourism

“Burmese Python” appointed Myanmar’s tourism ambassador The Myanmar Times 31st Dec 2018
Aung La Nsang “the Burmese Python” has been appointed as Myanmar’s tourism ambassador by the Ministry of Hotels and Tourism in a move to support the country’s tourism sector. Aung La, a Myanmar born Kachin ethnic and two-division MMA champion, signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Myanmar Tourism Federation, and Myanmar Market Promotion Association during a meeting at Yangon’s Chatrium Hotel on Saturday. The event was attended by the minister for hotel and tourism U Ohn Maung, Yangon region chief minister, and officials from related associations. U Ohn Maung said that appointing prominent figures “supports the development of Myanmar’s tourism sector”.

Myanmar’s tourism slump The ASEAN Post 1st Dec 2018
Faced with dwindling tourist numbers from the West, Myanmar is pulling out all stops to woo visitors closer to home. It has relaxed visa rules to visitors from China, South Korea and Japan and aims to bring about half a million of them over to Mandalay this year.

Government expects more Japanese tourists in 2019 The Myanmar Times 4th Dec 2018
U Hla Myint, director of international and regional cooperation at the Hotels and Tourism Ministry, said there has been a slight increase in the number of Japanese travellers since visa exemptions were granted to visitors from China, South Korea, Japan and India on October 1. Ministry and private-sector officials held a strategy session last Friday in Mandalay aimed at attracting Japanese tourists.  The Committee for the Development of National Tourism was established with country-specific teams and also has groups to handle regional tourism promotions.