Myanmar Update: February 8, 2019

Myanmar Update: February 8, 2019
Author: Jack Myint
 
LOOKING AHEAD
 
 

February 25: Workshop – Forging an Effective Partnership to Tackle Illicit Trade & Counterfeits with the ASEAN Customs Enforcement and Compliance Working Group

March 18-22: 2019 Post-ASEAN Transport Ministers Meeting Roadshow.
 
THE COUNCIL'S TAKE
 
 

Myanmar Aims to Reverse Drop in Western FDI with Major Investment Summit

From January 28-29, the Myanmar government, in coordination with the UMFCCI (Myanmar’s biggest private sector lobby) hosted the Invest Myanmar Summit 2019, a two-day investment summit in Nay Pyi Taw aimed at promoting investor interest in the country. The summit was in support of the Myanmar Investment Promotion Plan, which aims to attract US$20 billion in foreign direct investment (FDI) over the next 20 years. Over the two days, the summit showcased some 120 projects that were worth more than US$3 billion and spread out across ten states and regions. Key industries that were showcased included manufacturing, garments, electricity and energy, tourism, education, food processing, fisheries, health care, infrastructure, and real estate. The summit came as Myanmar has experienced a drop in FDI over the last two years, primarily due to the political backlash from the refugee situation in Northern Rakhine State and stalled peace negotiations with ethnic armed organizations.

State Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi gave the keynote address at the Summit and urged businesses to invest in Myanmar by pledging to “build an investment-friendly environment.” She emphasized Myanmar’s business advantages and opportunities such as low labor costs, strategic location, vibrant youth population and potential in human capital. She also highlighted the positive steps towards economic liberalization that her government has successfully delivered since coming to power in 2015, such as the passing of the new investment and companies laws, the opening up of the retail and wholesaling and the education sectors to FDI, the restructuring of the Myanmar Investment Commission, the streamlining of the investment approval process, the creation of the Ministry of Investment and Foreign Economic Relations, and the implementation of the Myanmar Sustainable Development Plan (MSDP).

Additionally, the State Counsellor announced the launch of the ‘Project Bank’, which will serve as a centralized and publicly-accessible online database that will:

  • Enable the government to coordinate within its ministries and agencies to prioritize proposals in line with the MSDP;
  • Showcase development objectives and project ‘wish-lists’ of individual ministries through technical specifications, call for tenders, project contract bids etc. for easy investor access; and
  • Serve as a platform for public-private partnerships by making it easier for businesses to invest in state assets.

If implemented effectively, the Project Bank could change the game in Myanmar’s infrastructure space and allow for greater transparency and quality in the planning, funding and execution of major infrastructure projects.

Over the past two years, Myanmar has seen a decline in FDI, primarily due to the political backlash from the refugee situation in Northern Rakhine State and stalled peace negotiations with ethnic armed organizations. All of this, coupled with myriad other issues that negatively affect the business environment – the lack of a skilled workforce, high energy prices, an underdeveloped financial and business regulatory environment, and lack of clarity on the investment approval procedure – have caused investor confidence in Myanmar to drop. The World Bank, last month, predicted Myanmar's GDP growth to fall to 6.2 percent in fiscal year 2018-19, from 6.8 percent the year before.

However, as the Myanmar government revamps the investment landscape through initiatives such as these and pays greater attention to economic reform, things are expected to take a turn for the better. While there is reputational risks for companies with investments in Myanmar at this time, given the expectation of looming EU and US sanctions, Myanmar’s “Look East” investment strategy may serve to make up for declining FDI from Western countries, providing the immediate and much-needed capital to push its economy forward. The expanding economy that could potentially result may provide added momentum for continued economic reform, which would ultimately make the business environment more favorable for Western FDI.

 
 
IN THIS UPDATE
 
 
Regional Affairs
Trends in China-Myanmar relations: 2018 Year in Review
Asean backs Rohingya return

National Affairs
Military 'Never Said' it Opposes Amending Constitution: Commander-in-Chief
Former General to Form New Party to ‘Support State Counselor’
Special Envoy of the Secretary-General on Myanmar: “Dialogue will make Myanmar stronger”
What's Behind the New Constitution Change Push in Myanmar?
Parliament approves charter change proposal despite military rejection
Myanmar army chief must be prosecuted for Rohingya 'genocide': U.N rights envoy
Myanmar Court Rejects Appeal Of 2 Imprisoned Reuters Journalists

Defense & Security
Myanmar to establish coast guard to boost maritime safety

Economics
+ 'Suukyinomics' Taking Hold
Suu Kyi to investors: Myanmar is open for business
Myanmar to attract more than $200 billion investments over the next 20 years
State counsellor attempts to woo foreign investors
Major Push for Investment in Rakhine at Invest Myanmar Summit
Myanmar Opens Major Investment Summit in Naypyitaw
MYANMAR – CHINA Forty per cent of Myanmar’s government debt held by China
Fitch downgrades GDP forecast, but sees growth in manufacturing, construction
Development to continue in Rakhine economic zones
Border economic zone can support stable ties with Myanmar
Analysis | Myanmar’s 2019 Economic Outlook
Long term economic improvement certain, strategy needed: U Win Aung

Energy
Chairman of Myanmar’s investment commission suggests alternatives for Myitsone Dam
Myitsone dam concerns Myanmar’s credibility - Global Times
Myanmar puts Beijing-backed hydropower dam into limbo
MOEE to drill for natural gas in Magwe
Rakhine launches new power infrastructure, aims for development
Yangon Region expects to need 1700MW of electricity this year
Ministry plans to produce additional 2700 mw to satisfy increasing power demand
China faces backlash as it seeks to rekindle Myanmar dam project
MIC gives green-light to nine investments

Financial Services
Banking sector to strengthen, support economy in 2019: experts
Myanmar to allow foreign insurers to operate by April
Myanmar to draft strategy on combating money laundering and terrorism
Bid to establish Myanmar derivatives market begins

Food & Agriculture
Myanmar ups efforts to stem fall in rice exports
Illegal sugar trade continues at Myawady border area
Rakhine ups efforts to draw investments, hopes for development
EU slaps duties on Cambodia, Myanmar rice exports
EU on the verge of imposing tariffs on Burmese, Cambodian rice

Health & Life Sciences
China donates dental imaging equipment to Myanmar - Xinhua | English.news.cn
Inspired by the lack of reproductive health awareness in Myanmar, Myhealthcare allows patients to chat with doctors

ICT
Newcomer in Myanmar triggers customer losses, revenue dip for foreign telcos
Japan helps Myanmar to enact cybersecurity law
Philippines and Myanmar sign information accord
Tech boom to bring in a new era in Myanmar

Infrastructure
Industrial zones hampered by poor infrastructure but demand remains
Govt. plans to upgrade Tada-U Airport in Mandalay
China’s Six Belt and Road Projects in Myanmar to Watch in 2019
Myanmar group SPA plots foray into midrange housing
 
ARTICLE CLIPS
 
 
Regional Affairs

Trends in China-Myanmar relations: 2018 Year in Review Tea Circle 31st Jan 2019
Against the backdrop of intensifying diplomatic and economic pressures from the West mainly due to the humanitarian crisis in Rakhine State, Nay Pyi Taw’s engagement with Beijing improved significantly in the year 2018, reaching dramatic milestones that have not been achieved since Myanmar’s democratic transition began in 2010: an MoU on the China-Myanmar Economic Corridor (CMEC) was signed as part of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI); three ‘economic cooperation zones’ in Muse, Chinshwehaw and Kanpiketi were agreed to, with implementation of the Muse zone already in progress; an agreement on a feasibility study of the Muse–Mandalay Railway Project was signed; a framework agreement for the development of Kyauk Phyu Special Economic Zone was signed; the tender for the New Yangon City Project led by the Yangon Regional Government and the China Communication Construction Company will be open for invitation soon; and the State Counsellor formed and leads the One Belt One Road Implementation Committee.

Asean backs Rohingya return Bangkok Post 19th Jan 2019
Foreign ministers from the 10 Southeast Asian Nations yesterday pledged to continue providing humanitarian assistance to Myanmar over the Rohingya crisis and called for the repatriation process to take place as soon as possible. "We received a briefing from Myanmar on the humanitarian situation in Rakhine State and had a fruitful discussion on the issue where we agreed on the importance of Asean's role," said the statement from the two-day Asean Foreign Ministers' Retreat in Chiang Mai that ended yesterday. The event was the first ministerial-level event held under Thailand's Asean chairmanship to discuss the region's priorities and direction this year. Thai Foreign Minister Don Pramudwinai said Asean was committed to helping Myanmar solve the humanitarian crisis and has commissioned the Asean Coordinating Centre for Humanitarian Assistance on Disaster Management (AHA Centre) to play a role in providing assistance to Myanmar and its displaced people.

National Affairs

Military 'Never Said' it Opposes Amending Constitution: Commander-in-Chief The Irrawaddy 31st Jan 2019
Commander-in-Chief Snr. Gen. Min Aung Hlaing on Thursday insisted that the military has never said it would not amend the country’s Constitution, responding to media questions about his views on changing the charter. “[I] have already agreed to amend [the Constitution]. [I] never said the Constitution would not be amended,” he said at a military exercise in Mandalay Region. “[I] have said [that I agree] many years ago, since the time of the first [civilian] government. But it is important that [the Constitution] is amended systematically. And I have nothing to say about anything else. [The Constitution] will be amended when it is necessary,” he added. Upper House lawmaker U Aung Kyi Nyunt, a central executive committee member of the ruling National League for Democracy (NLD), submitted a proposal to Parliament on Tuesday to form a joint committee comprising fellow lawmakers to draft amendments to the Constitution.

Former General to Form New Party to ‘Support State Counselor’ The Irrawaddy 31st Jan 2019
The aim of the political party to be established by ex-general and former Lower House Speaker U Shwe Mann, is to support State Counselor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, according to the sources close to him. U Shwe Mann, who has close ties to Daw Aung San Su Kyi, will continue to support her through his party by reinforcing the civilian government in Myanmar, according to U Win Oo, former Lower House lawmaker and member of U Shwe Mann’s party. “We have extended our help since Daw Aung San Suu Kyi entered [the Parliament] through the [2012] by-election. Though we lost and stepped down, [U Shwe Mann] has been helping with the [Legal Affairs and Special Cases Assessment Commission]. This is because we want to strengthen the civilian government. We want [the civilian government) to last for a long time. We are helping with this good intention in mind,” U Win Oo told The Irrawaddy.

Special Envoy of the Secretary-General on Myanmar: “Dialogue will make Myanmar stronger” ReliefWeb 30th Jan 2019
The Special Envoy visited Myanmar from 18 to 29 January. During that time, she oversaw the installation of her new office in Nay Pyi Taw, where she also met with Union-level ministers and with the Chairperson of the Independent Commission of Enquiry. She travelled to Sittwe, where she engaged with relevant government ministers at the state level, as well as with humanitarian agencies, political parties, civil society and displacement affected communities. The Special Envoy also met with the United Nations agencies, international non-governmental organisations and with the diplomatic community in Yangon. Her visit to Sittwe focused on the obstacles and potential solutions for freedom of movement, which is restricted for many people in Rakhine state for different reasons. “Freedom of movement is key for all people and their access to livelihoods. Without freedom of movement, children cannot go to local schools, and people still cannot access hospitals,” she said. “It is important to rebuild trust.”

What's Behind the New Constitution Change Push in Myanmar? The Diplomat 30th Jan 2019
On Tuesday, Myanmar’s parliament voted to create a new committee to propose amendments to the country’s military-enacted constitution, formally putting the contentious issue of constitutional change on the agenda for the first time since historic elections brought to power the country’s opposition led by Aung San Suu Kyi three years ago. The idea of constitutional change in Myanmar itself is far from new. But understanding the context for its reemergence as well as its potential impact is nonetheless important within the context of the National League for Democracy (NLD’s) position within the country’s broader politics heading into elections expected in 2020.

Parliament approves charter change proposal despite military rejection The Myanmar Times 29th Jan 2019
The Pyidaungsu Hluttaw (bicameral legislature) on Tuesday approved an urgent proposal to amend the controversial 2008 constitution, despite all military MPs voting against it. U Aung Kyi Nyunt, a member of the Amyotha Hluttaw (Upper House) Bill Committee submitted the urgent proposal on behalf of the ruling National League for Democracy (NLD). He explained that the proposal is to form a committee within parliament to “carry out the process of amending the constitution.” Before Pyidaungsu Hluttaw Speaker U T Khun Myat made a decision on the proposal, Brigadier General Maung Maung, a senior military MP, stood up and insisted that the process of submitting the proposal violated parliamentary procedure.

Myanmar army chief must be prosecuted for Rohingya 'genocide': U.N rights envoy Reuters 25th Jan 2019
Myanmar’s army chief should be prosecuted for genocide against the Rohingya Muslim minority, a U.N. human rights investigator said, adding that holding perpetrators to account for crimes was necessary before refugees who fled the country could return. Yanghee Lee, the United Nations’ Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in Myanmar, was speaking during a trip to Thailand and Bangladesh, where she met officials and Rohingya driven out of western Rakhine state after an army crackdown in 2017. “Min Aung Hlaing and others should be held accountable for genocide in Rakhine and for crimes against humanity and war crimes in other parts of Myanmar,” said Lee, who is barred from the country, referring to the military’s commander-in-chief. Her interview marked the first time Lee has publicly called for the army chief to be prosecuted for genocide.

Myanmar Court Rejects Appeal Of 2 Imprisoned Reuters Journalists NPR.org 11th Jan 2019
A court in Myanmar has upheld the convictions of two Reuters journalists serving seven-year prison sentences in a case that has drawn international criticism and cast doubt on the state of democracy in the country. Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo were found guiltylast fall of violating the Myanmar's colonial-era Official Secrets Act. They were in Myanmar to investigatea massacre of 10 Rohingya men amid a military crackdown on the country's Muslim minority. On Friday, Yangon High Court Judge Aung Naing called the seven-year term "a suitable punishment," Michael Sullivan reports for NPR from neighboring Thailand.

Defense & Security

Myanmar to establish coast guard to boost maritime safety The Myanmar Times 25th Jan 2019
Myanmar will soon establish a coast guard to protect its over 2000-kilometre-long coastline and territorial waters, news reports said. Minister of Transport and Communication U Thant Zin Maung was quoted by China’s Xinhua state news agency as saying that the new law enforcement body will also ensure the safety of sea routes, especially in areas where there is off-shore drilling and construction of deep-sea ports. The force will also work to conserve and protect the country’s marine resources as well as play a key role in responding to maritime accidents and natural disasters. The coast guard is also aimed at dealing with non-traditional maritime security threats such as human trafficking, illegal entry, black marketeering, narcotics trafficking, and illegal fishing, Xinhua said.

Economics

'Suukyinomics' take hold Bangkok Post 4th Feb 2019 
Myanmar's civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi has relaunched the government's drive for economic development based on attracting foreign investment, streamlining bureaucratic procedures, improving infrastructure.and utilising the enthusiasm and skills of the country's youth. 

Suu Kyi to investors: Myanmar is open for business Bangkok Post 28th Jan 2019
Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi on Monday urged global investors to put their money into Myanmar, seeking to offset the negative impact of the Rohingya crisis and slow pace of economic reforms. Suu Kyi touted Myanmar's economic potential, its attractive geographical location, expanding domestic markets and young population. She also listed some of the reforms undertaken by her government since coming to power in 2016.

Myanmar to attract more than $200 billion investments over the next 20 years Eleven Media Group Co., Ltd 29th Jan 2019
Myanmar recently launched the Myanmar Investment Promotion Plan (MIPP) which aims to attract more than US$200 billion through responsible and quality business over the next 20 years, facilitating Myanmar’s transition to a middle-income country, said Myanmar State Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi at Invest Myanmar Summit  2019 on January 28. The MIPP covers the five-year short-term plan (2016-2017-2020-2021), the five-year mid-term plan (2021-2022 to 2025-2026) and the long-term plan (2026-2027 to 2035-2036).

State counsellor attempts to woo foreign investors The Myanmar Times 29th Jan 2019
State Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi on Monday urged an audience of business bosses to invest in Myanmar in the wake of falling foreign direct investment and slowing growth, pledging to “build an investment-friendly environment”. She was speaking at the first official investment conference organised by her National League for Democracy-led government intended to win support for her handling of the economy. However, businesses were lukewarm about the speech, which did not touch upon the impact of political crises and offered few details on new reforms. Over the last year, Myanmar’s government has been under increasing pressure to bolster the economy and support the private sector.  Approved FDI fell short of the official estimates by around 50 percent between April and October 2018, while a survey for European companies last month revealed that business confidence has fallen to a three-year low.

Major Push for Investment in Rakhine at Invest Myanmar Summit The Irrawaddy 29th Jan 2019
Despite a troubled reputation fueled by the Rohingya crisis and recent violent clashes between government and Arakan Army troops, the government of Rakhine State has been desperately inviting foreign investment to the state in order to move ahead on economic development plans for the state. “If we have economic development in those areas, we can gain trust from investors. They would stop worrying about the instability that actually affected a small part of the Rakhine State,” Rakhine Chief Minister U Nyi Pu said at the Invest Myanmar Summit 2019 in Naypyitaw on Monday. “This is the reason I want to focus on development projects more on those areas,” he said.

Myanmar Opens Major Investment Summit in Naypyitaw The Irrawaddy 28th Jan 2019
The Myanmar government opened a two-day investment summit in Naypyitaw on Monday aimed at drumming up interest in the country, showcasing some 120 projects worth more than $3 billion combined. The Invest Myanmar Summit 2019, the country’s first, is part of the government’s efforts to counteract a significant decline in foreign direct investment (FDI) in Myanmar over the last two fiscal years. A collaboration between the government and business community, the event aims to provide an opportunity for businesses to meet and for local and international investors to discuss the country’s investment potential. More than 1,600 local and foreign delegates are expected to attend and 40 companies are exhibiting.

MYANMAR – CHINA Forty per cent of Myanmar’s government debt held by China Asia News 25th Jan 2019
Myanmar has a national debt of some US$ 10 billion, more than four of which with China. Two days ago, lawmakers began discussing the Joint Public Accounts Committee’s assessment of the government’s debt report, urging the government to pay off the loans from China as quickly as possible, pointing out that the 4.5% interest rate with China is the highest among all foreign countries that have lent to Myanmar. “As we are allowed to pay back any amount any time we wish, we should pay back loans from China – whose interest rate is high and whose loan amount accounts for 40 per cent of the total national debt – as early as possible,” lower house lawmaker Daw Cho Cho told parliament. According to the latest government debt report, Myanmar had racked up some US$ 4 billion in loans by 1988 and a further US$ 2.7 billion up to 2011—97 pe cent of which is owed to China. It says the government amassed another US$ 3.1 billion in loans between 2011 and 2016 and US$ 91 million more since then.

Fitch downgrades GDP forecast, but sees growth in manufacturing, construction The Myanmar Times 25th Jan 2019
Fitch Solutions has downgraded its growth forecast for Myanmar to 6.3 percent for the 2019 fiscal year from 6.6pc previously, citing risks stemming from the crisis in Rakhine. However, the research firm believes growth, while slowing, will remain supported by the manufacturing and construction sectors, which are forecast to expand this year.  “Although Myanmar’s business environment remains the weakest in Southeast Asia, we note that gradual improvements are being made, and the government in general has been adopting the right industrial policies,” Fitch wrote in a January 23 report.  For instance, there is greater clarity now as to which products require export licensing after the Ministry of Commerce in February 2018 issued a negative list, while the Myanmar Company Law implemented in August 20 18 aims to enhance protection for minority shareholders and strengthen corporate governance. 

Development to continue in Rakhine economic zones The Myanmar Times 22nd Jan 2019
The Rakhine State government is moving ahead with economic development plans for the northern part of the state. State official say the plans will involve the Kanyin Chaung Economic Zone, Pone Nar Kyun Industrial Zone and livestock and agriculture zones in northern Rakhine. The state government says it hopes to have the Kanyin Chaung Economic Zone up and running by this March, said Rakhine State Minister of Finance, Revenue, Planning and Economy U Kyaw Aye Thein. The Kanyin Chaung Economic Zone, located near  Maung Daw Township, is expected to boost trade by sea routes due to its proximity with Bangladesh and India. The state government has invested K2.5 billion (US$1.6 billion) to develop the zone which was first proposed in 2015. Being run as a public-private-partnership in a 65-35 split, the private sector has also injected K800 million into the project.

Border economic zone can support stable ties with Myanmar Global Times 22nd Jan 2019
Work on establishing an economic cooperation zone along the China-Myanmar border has reportedly started, with priority given to sectors including manufacturing. Amid some concerns about Chinese presence in Myanmar, the project is likely to be a good starting point in maintaining stability in the border area. While Myanmar is eager to attract foreign investment to rebuild its economy, China is seeing a boom in outbound investment. However, misinterpretations of Chinese investment in Myanmar are on the rise in the Southeast Asian country, and this situation adds uncertainty to the outlook for future cooperation. As Myanmar continues to diversify its economic partners following its democratic reforms in recent years, the country has drawn interest from Western investors.

Analysis | Myanmar’s 2019 Economic Outlook The Irrawaddy 16th Jan 2019
Despite Myanmar facing a significant economic downturn last year, government officials and business people alike have expressed positivity for the country’s economy in 2019, especially in regards to foreign investment and the local business environment. However, the country still has many challenges to face. The unsolved crisis in Rakhine State, weak strategies in the tourism sector and policies that do not favor local investors are just a few obstacles that must be tackled. Despite these, Myanmar expects to receive more investment from East Asia, for investment agreements to generate more job opportunities and to see progress in local small- and medium-sized enterprises. As we set out on a new year, 2019, The Irrawaddy spoke to a range of experts including an official from the government investment body, the vice president of Myanmar Federation of Chambers of Commerce and Industry and business people from the industrial and tourism sectors about their expectations for this year.

Long term economic improvement certain, strategy needed: U Win Aung The Myanmar Times 14th Jan 2019
THE government has come under pressure for its handling of the Myanmar economy, with stakeholders lamenting the slowing pace of economic reform and investment flows. During the first half of 2018, approved foreign direct investments (FDI) totalled just $1.7 billion, compared to $4.1 billion during the same period in the previous fiscal year. Meanwhile, GDP is forecast to slow from 6.8 percent in 2017 to 6.2pc in 2018, according to the World Bank. U Win Aung, former president of the Union of Myanmar Federation of Chambers of Commerce and Industry, is among one those unsatisfied with the economy’s progress. “We should not be content with the current situation. In my opinion, Myanmar needs more growth as the country’s needs are rising,” he told The Myanmar Times in an exclusive interview recently. 

Energy

Chairman of Myanmar’s investment commission suggests alternatives for Myitsone Dam Mizzima Myanmar News and Insight 30th Jan 2019
The chairman of Myanmar’s investment commission on Tuesday suggested alternatives such as downsizing or relocating a stalled Chinese-backed dam project that has strained ties between the two countries, Reuters has reported. Myanmar angered China in 2011 when its government suspended the $3.6 billion Myitsone hydropower dam in the country’s north amid environmental concerns. Asked about the dam the chairman, Thaung Tun,  listed several problems, from an earthquake fault line running under the project site to a large catchment area affecting residents. According to the report, he suggested several alternatives, including scaling back the dam, moving it to a different location, or offering the operator an alternative project. 

Myitsone dam concerns Myanmar’s credibility - Global Times Global Times 30th Jan 2019
In response to a question asked by a student at a meeting with locals in Kalay Township in Sagaing Region on January 22, Myanmar State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi said an administration shouldn't terminate foreign-invested projects approved by its predecessor. If the government breaks a promise made by its predecessor, the country will lose its credibility and "no businessperson would want to invest in this country,"she said.   Suu Kyi's remarks coincided with a new round of attacks launched by some Myanmar people on the China-invested Myitsone Dam. Her remarks at this time are meant to send a political message. China signed agreements with the then Myanmar government on a slew of projects when Myanmar was under Western sanctions, including the Myitsone Dam, which was suspended in 2011.

Myanmar puts Beijing-backed hydropower dam into limbo Financial Times 29th Jan 2019
Myanmar’s government said on Tuesday it had no plans to resume work on a Chinese-backed hydropower dam, currently halted, despite intensifying pressure to do so from Beijing. U Thaung Tun, minister of investment and foreign relations, said that while Myanmar considered relations with its powerful neighbour “important” and was working to devise an alternative power project, the Myitsone dam in the northern Kachin state would have “enormous impact on the environment and on the people and villages in the area”.  Myanmar’s former government of President Thein Sein suspended work on Myitsone in 2011 after state-owned China Power Investment Corporation (CPIC) had begun work, in response to intense local opposition from Kachin groups. 

MOEE to drill for natural gas in Magwe The Myanmar Times 28th Jan 2019
A test oil well will be drilled in Myaing township, Magwe Region to determine the presence of oil or gas, U Nyan Tun, deputy managing director from Myanmar Oil and Gas Enterprise (MOGE) , said during the Ministry of Energy and Electricity’s (MOEE) month press conference yesterday.It will be the first time a test well is drilled in the area. “Drilling will start on January 26,” U Nyan Tun said. The Myaing deep oil test well No.1 is located at the south of the Myaing Anticline in the Chindwin sedimentary basin. Exploration will be conducted to determine the presence of oil or gas at the middle of the anticline. “According to expert analysis, there is a high possibility that either oil or gas can be found. If oil or gas is found, we will proceed to production,” MOEE deputy permanent secretary U Htay Aung told The Myanmar Times.

Rakhine launches new power infrastructure, aims for development The Myanmar Times 24th Jan 2019
The infrastructure will now provide electricity around the clock to some 7800 households in the townships said Union Minister for Electricity and Energy U Win Khaing. The 66KV and 66/11KV transmission lines connect the townships to a 5 MVA substation in Maungdaw Built by the Department of Electric Power Transmission and System Control, work on the project was completed on December 20. The project was officially launched last Saturday in an event attended by U Win Khaing and Rakhine State Chief Minister U Nyi Pu. Before the project’s completion only 986 households out of 1530 in Rathedaung received electricity produced from a 500KVA generator for about five hours a day. In Buthidaung, only 1200 households out of some 3370 received electricity about nine and half hours a day while about 1800 out of more than 4470 received electricity about 12 hours a day from generators. Now, thanks to the infrastructure project 24-hour electricity and will reach more than 1270 houses in Rathedaung and about 1930 houses in 26 nearby villages, about 1800 houses in Buthidaung and about 260 houses in 13 nearby villages, and 2180 houses in Maungdaw and about 3900 houses in 11 nearby villages, said U Win Khaing during the ceremony to launch the project. 

Yangon Region expects to need 1700MW of electricity this year The Myanmar Times 24th Jan 2019
Electricity consumption in Yangon Region is expected to reach 1700 megawatts this year, said U Tun Kywe, CEO of the Yangon Electricity Supply Corp (YESC). Yangon used 1548MW last year, which is expected to increase based on growth rates, historical data and new projects. Preparations for an adequate supply in summer include grid line expansion, increasing the power transformers from main transformers from 10 to 20, expansion of 66 kilovolt-ampere (kVA) and 33kVA stations, and the installation of small transformers, he said. There are also plans to install insulated 400-volt cabling in residential areas to improve the safe distribution of more electricity, he added. In last year’s budget, the Ministry of Electricity and Energy requested K24 billion for YESC to provide sufficient electricity and expand coverage of the grid and K3.1 billion for lighting rural areas. Yangon Region consumes 50 percent of Myanmar’s electricity generation. Myanmar’s electricity consumption is expected to reach more than 4500MW in 2020-21, said Deputy Minister of Electricity and Energy U Tun Naing.

Ministry plans to produce additional 2700 mw to satisfy increasing power demand Eleven Myanmar 22nd Jan 2019
Plans are under way to generate an additional over 2,700 megawatts as the nationwide power consumption is expected to hit around 4,531 mw in 2020-2021, said Win Khaing, Union Minster for Electricity and Energy on January 9. Currently, the country’s nationwide power consumption is increasing from 15 per cent to 19 per cent. To meet increasing power demand, the ministry plans to build three LNG-fired power plants which have a production capacity of about 3,000 MW, in addition to hydropower, gas-fired power and solar-powered plants. The natural gas production will decline in 2020, he added. Currently, the highest power consumption is 3,483 mw. A total of 16 thermal power plants produce 1,083 mw. The government is making constant efforts to enable all regions and states to have equal access to electricity.

China faces backlash as it seeks to rekindle Myanmar dam project South China Morning Post 20th Jan 2019
Political and religious leaders in Myanmar’s Kachin state have hit back at apparent efforts by Beijing to breathe new life into a controversial China-funded dam project as the Southeast Asian nation comes under fire from the West over its treatment of the Rohingya Muslims. In a joint statement released on Monday, three ethnic Kachin political parties said they were seeking the “permanent suspension” of the US$3.6 billion Myitsone Dam project, which has been on hold since 2011 but had been slated for completion this year. “This is the people’s desire. We won’t change our policy on the Myitsone hydropower dam,” Gumgrawng Awng Hkam, chairman of the Kachin Democratic Party, told Myanmar’s Network Media Group. The backlash from community leaders came after the Chinese embassy in Myanmar said local people in Kachin, as well as political and religious leaders there, had a “positive attitude” towards the dam, which is the largest of several Beijing-backed energy and mining projects approved by the military government before 2011. It also underscores the dilemma China faces as it seeks to extend its geopolitical influence over its neighbours through infrastructure and investment.

MIC gives green-light to nine investments Eleven Myanmar 13th Jan 2019
Myanmar Investment Commission (MIC) granted the permits to nine new investments including CMP factories and LPG businesses at its meeting on January 11. The nine new foreign investments are: meat packaging, rice and rice mill products, animal feed production, baby chicks production, CMP garment industries, power production, LPG industry, warehouse and logistics services and vehicle repairing training. The new investments can create 2,227 jobs for locals. From 1988-1989 to 2018-2019 fiscal year, the total foreign investments reached around USD 78 billion with China topping the list of FDI with USD 20.249 billion, followed by Singapore with USD 19.752 billion. Oil and gas sector led the list of FDI with 29 per cent and the energy sector, with 27 per cent. Livestock and fishery, farming and construction sectors saw the least FDI inflows, accounting for less than one per cent.

Financial Services

Banking sector to strengthen, support economy in 2019: experts The Myanmar Times 31st Jan 2019
The banking sector is expected to make strides forward this year as fiercer competition forces banks in Myanmar to level up. “This year, the banking environment will be much better than before. There are still many hurdles left to cross to liberalise and strengthen this sector so that it can support the economy. Nevertheless, we have seen good progress over the last two years of reform,” said U Soe Thein, vice chair of the Central Bank of Myanmar (CBM). Following a CBM decision to level the playing field between local and foreign banks, competition for market share in the sector is expected to intensify, which is a positive development for Myanmar.  Under Notification 6/2018, issued on November 8, 2018, foreign banks are now able to lend to domestic firms in the local currency at the standard lending rate of 13 percent. However, foreign banks are free to set their own interest rates if the loans are in foreign currencies. They will also be permitted to provide the full suite of trade financing services, the CBM said.

Myanmar to allow foreign insurers to operate by April Insurance Business 26th Jan 2019
Myanmar’s financial regulator will begin granting licences to foreign-owned insurance companies, allowing them to operate in the market by April. “We will soon invite expressions of interest (EOI) so that foreign insurers can start operations in April or no later than May,” U Thant Sin, director of the Financial Regulatory Department under the Ministry of Planning and Finance, was quoted as saying by the Myanmar Times. There are currently 31 representative offices of insurers from 14 countries in Myanmar. These firms are anticipating the government’s go-signal allowing full foreign investments in life insurance and joint ventures in general insurance. According to an industry leader, foreign competition is important in order to develop Myanmar’s insurance industry.

Myanmar to draft strategy on combating money laundering and terrorism Mizzima 25th Jan 2019
Myanmar is drafting a national strategy on combating money laundering and terrorism financing, Xinhua reported. "The aim and objectives of the strategy should be practical and attainable so that we can reduce the risks outlined in the national risk assessment," Maj-Gen Aung Thu, deputy minister of home affairs and head of the draft committee, said on Wednesday. He said suggestions and advice from relevant departments and organizations will be added to the national strategy and will require actual implementation to follow. The draft national strategy will be forwarded to the government for approval.

Bid to establish Myanmar derivatives market begins The Nation 15th Jan 2019
Min Htike Aung, managing director of New World Financial Group, said the firm is planning to establish a derivatives market in Myanmar in cooperation with the Finance Ministry, the regulator Securities and Exchange Commission of Myanmar (SECM), YSX and international partners including Cambodia Derivatives Exchange (CDX) and Hong Kong-based First Asia Merchants Bullion Ltd (also known as First Gold). The derivatives market will involve commercial activities in forex, commodities, real estate and gold markets, among others.  “We will make efforts in all possible ways to make it happen. If we are able to make it, the forex market will definitely boom here in line with international standards, and thereby gold and commodities markets will substantially grow,” he said. “To this end, we are tirelessly cooperating with our partners and relevant authorities. We will further strengthen our cooperation with the line ministry to work on setting regulations for this market.”

Food & Agriculture

Myanmar ups efforts to stem fall in rice exports The Myanmar Times 24th Jan 2019
Myanmar’s rice exports have been falling over the past year, and the government is upping efforts to diversify its markets and reduce costs to better compete with other exporting countries. Myanmar exported 1.7 million tonnes of rice and broken rice worth US$ 578 million in between April and December last year, according to the Ministry of Commerce (MOC). Around 52 percent was exported via sea, while the remaining was sold at the border to China.  At those levels, rice exports have decreased by over a third from 2.5 million tonnes worth US$780 million compared to the same period last year. Myanmar exports over 80 percent of its rice to China. During the 2017-18 fiscal year, Myanmar exported 3.5 tonnes of rice worth over US$ 1 billion. It was the highest volume of rice exports in 50 years.

Illegal sugar trade continues at Myawady border area The Myanmar Times 21st Jan 2019
To control the unstable foreign currency exchange rate, the Ministry of Commerce temporarily stopped issuing re-export licenses for sugar and fuel in August.  Although sugar re-exports are suspended, there are still illegal imports and a large local stockpile of sugar locally, as there are few buyers in China, U Win Htay, vice president of the Myanmar Sugar and Cane Related Products Association, said.  “There is illegal trading, mostly in Myawady. There is plenty of sugar locally. It is hard to estimate the amount of the sugar in Myanmar, so we should stop the smuggling,” he said.

Rakhine ups efforts to draw investments, hopes for development The Myanmar Times 21st Jan 2019
With the aim of drawing funds that will be channelled towards the development of the state, the three-day Rakhine State Investment Fair, will start on February 21. The fair will organised by the state government, with support from the Japanese government.  State officials say, in the tourism sector, there are opportunities to invest in hotels and other tour activities in Ngapali Beach, which is in Thandwe Township, as well as in other beaches in Gwa and Kyeintali townships and the Mrauk-U heritage area. In fisheries, funds are needed to build, upgrade and expand fish farms and processing factories, while agriculture will require investments in technology and converting existing farmland into areas which can double up as agri and aquaculture zones. Other sectors with growth potential include foodstuffs and garment manufacturing, power generation and distribution, education, healthcare and infrastructure, U Nyi Pu said.

EU slaps duties on Cambodia, Myanmar rice exports Aljazeera 18th Jan 2019
The European Commission has reinstated duties on rice from Cambodia and Myanmar for three years after determining that imports were causing economic damage to European producers. The tariffs, which came into effect on Friday, will apply a duty of 175 euros a tonne of Indica rice in the first year, reducing it to 150 euros a tonne in the second year and 125 euros a tonne in the third year. "An investigation has confirmed a significant increase of imports of Indica rice from Cambodia and Myanmar into the European Union that has caused economic damage to European producers," the Commission said in a statement on Wednesday announcing the move. "The European Commission has therefore decided today to re-introduce import duties that will be steadily reduced over a period of three years." In a probe launched last March, the EU's executive arm found that Indica rice imports from Cambodia and Myanmar have increased by 89 percent in the past five seasons.

EU on the verge of imposing tariffs on Burmese, Cambodian rice Asian Correspondent 15th Jan 2019
THE European Union plans to impose tariffs on rice coming from Cambodia and Burma for the next three years in a decision that could deal a huge blow to the agriculturally-dependent Southeast Asian economies. In a bid to curb a surge in imports, the European Commission, which oversees trade policy in the bloc, proposed the measures last year but failed to get a clear majority of the 28 countries in favour last December. According to Reuters, the commission itself is bound to make the final decision in the absence of an opinion by the relevant committee. A source familiar with the process said the committee has set a Wednesday deadline to determine if there is any opposition to the proposal, which sets a duty of EU175  (US$200.73) per tonne of rice in the first year, dropping to 150 euros in the second and 125 euros in year three. The tariffs follow an initiative by the Italian government to limit rice imports from Asian countries which is aimed at “protecting the Italian and European rice industry.” Both countries are beneficiaries of the EU’s “Everything But Arms” scheme which allows the world’s least developed countries to export most goods to the EU without duties. Separately, Cambodia and Burma stand to lose special access to the world’s largest trading bloc over their human rights records.

Health & Life Sciences

China donates dental imaging equipment to Myanmar - Xinhua | English.news.cn Xinhua 26th Jan 2019
Source: Xinhua| 2019-01-26 21:46:34|Editor: ZX YANGON, Jan. 26 (Xinhua) -- China donated a dental Spectrum Cone-Beam Computed Tomography (CBCT) equipment to Myanmar on Saturday. The donation was jointly conducted by the Chinese Stomatological Association and China's UEG Medical Group. Dr. Thet Khaing Win, permanent secretary for Myanmar's Health and Sports Ministry, thanked China for the donation of the dental Spectrum CBCT equipment and called for further development of the friendship between the two countries. Yu Guangyan, president of the Chinese Stomatological Association (CSA), thanked UEG Medical Group for the contribution. The donation aimed at promoting cooperation on medical sector between China and Myanmar, Li Minxu, president of UEG Medical Group said at the event.

Inspired by the lack of reproductive health awareness in Myanmar, Myhealthcare allows patients to chat with doctors Yahoo 18th Jan 2019
After winning Startup of the Year last year in ASIAN Rice Bowl Startup Awards in Malaysia, the name Myhealthcare started to gain traction in health tech industry, and that’s not without a reason. Enter Chit Hnin Pwint Wai, who’s an aid of women reproductive issue, and took the matter seriously to start a company. “In Myanmar, there is a lack of reproductive health access directly to the expertise. Burmese (Myanmar) women are too shy to discuss issues about contraceptives with family members, friends, and even doctors face to face. They don’t want to go to the hospitals for sexual health problems due to fear of being stigmatised,” said Chit.

ICT

Newcomer in Myanmar triggers customer losses, revenue dip for foreign telcos TelecomTV 31st Jan 2019
Once heralded as the world's last great untapped telecoms market, where major international telcos clamoured to win an operating licence and the chance to capture a slice of its potential, Myanmar is proving to be something of a financial headache for its foreign mobile operators, who are battling with declining revenues and even customer losses. Essentially, in a very short space of time, Telenor and Ooredoo have gone from addressing an emerging market environment, in which network build-out and bureaucracy posed serious obstacles but SIMs were flying off the shelves, to facing many of the same challenges they have at home.

Japan helps Myanmar to enact cybersecurity law The Myanmar Times 15th Jan 2019
Japanese experts recently participated in the e-commerce cybersecurity workshop held at the Ministry of Transport and Communications headquarters at Nay Pyi Taw, with the help of Japan’s Ministry of Internal Affairs and communications.  “The workshop supported the processes of e-government and cybersecurity,” said U Tha Oo, deputy minister of Transport and Communications.  Sato Yukari, Japan’s deputy minister of Internal Affairs and Communications, said the workshop was aimed at supporting the cybersecurity plans of the Myanmar government.   “We introduced policies and the latest cybersecurity technology by sending experts serving in the industry in our country. The discussion means a lot to us,” she said.

Philippines and Myanmar sign information accord Manila Bulletin News 25th Jan 2019
The Philippines has forged a pact with Myanmar on promoting the development of cooperation in the field of information. The Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), signed by Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO) and the Ministry of Information of Myanmar Friday at the Palace, involves information cooperation on news exchange, radio and television broadcasting, film industry, information technology, public relations, print and publishing. Under the pact, the two agencies have recognized the need to strengthen the existing friendly relations between the two countries.

Tech boom to bring in a new era in Myanmar The Nation 14th Jan 2019
Mike Than Tun Win, founder and chief executive of BOD Tech Co which runs Flymya travel portal and Get digital services, said the coming tech disruption will be driven mainly by young entrepreneurs. “The government should place more focus on IT education in key universities. A better relation between the public and private sectors is critical,” he said. He stressed the need to open up more sectors to the private sector, so they could play an active role in the nation’s growth. He also encourages adopting more public-private partnerships to accelerate the growth momentum.

Infrastructure

Govt. plans to upgrade Tada-U Airport in Mandalay Eleven 29th Jan 2019
Mandalay Region government is planning to upgrade Tada-U Airport as it has the longest runway in South East Asia and it will be a good place in the region, said its Chief Minister Dr Zaw Myint Maung at Invest Myanmar Summit 2019 held at Nay Pyi Taw on January 28. “The airport is 35 kilometers away from Mandalay and it has the longest runway in South East Asia. We are developing the airport with Japanese help and it has good potentials. The airport can provide services to three million passengers annually. If we upgrade it, it will be a good place as an international airport in South East Asia. So we are trying to invite airlines to land at the airport,” said the chief minister.

Industrial zones hampered by poor infrastructure but demand remains The Myanmar Times 24th Jan 2019
Business information firm Frontier Myanmar Research (FMR) last week at the Yangon Stock Exchange launched its Myanmar Industrial Zone Review, a study based on reviewing approximately 100 active, developing and proposed industrial zones across the country. Industrial zones in Yangon Region benefit from geographical proximity, and hence many better-run zones are being filled up. This has driven up the land prices of industrial estates near the commercial capital. To add to the problem, the government’s effort to push back on land speculation has yielded little success. The price increase has led investors to look beyond Yangon Region. Currently, Myanmar has 63 industrial zones and parks in operation, occupying 25,425 of land in all the states and regions, with the exception of Chin State. Of all the industrial estates, 65 percent are located in the Yangon Region. 

China’s Six Belt and Road Projects in Myanmar to Watch in 2019 The Irrawaddy 24th Jan 2019
The Myanmar government recently agreed to begin work on key projects under the China-Myanmar Economic Corridor (CMEC) agreement which is part of Chinese’s ambitious Belt and Road Initiative. Experts, including voices from the World Bank, have pointed out that Myanmar’s growth will largely depend on major BRI infrastructure projects that get underway this year. The 1,700-kilometer-long CMEC will start in China’s Yunnan Province, go through Myanmar’s major economic cities—Mandalay in central Myanmar, the commercial capital of Yangon—and reach the coast at Kyaukphyu Special Economic Zone (SEZ) in Rakhine State. The proposal includes upgrades to three major roads through Mandalay and Muse on the Myanmar side of the border with China, and some other roads in Shan State. An estimated $2 billion will be spent in the initial stages of the project which is expected to be made up of 24 projects in total.

Myanmar group SPA plots foray into midrange housing Nikkei Asian Review 22nd Jan 2019
Myanmar's Serge Pun & Associates is entering the middle-class housing market here, moving away from the sluggish luxury segment to tap an area expected to enjoy broader demand. Yoma Strategic Holdings, an arm of the conglomerate, plans to construct an 11-building condominium complex at StarCity, an urban development project about a half-hour drive southeast of downtown Yangon. Prices will range from 42 million kyat ($27,500) for a studio apartment to 160 million kyat for a three-bedroom residence. This compares with nearly 100 million kyat for even the cheapest units at StarCity now, a local real estate company says. The conglomerate intends to start delivering units to buyers in 2020. It also will begin offering mortgages with terms of up to 25 years through SPA group member Yoma Bank. The shift in segment comes amid a broader pivot by developers in Myanmar away from high-end housing in favor of midrange properties.