Myanmar Update: March 22, 2019

Myanmar Update | March 22, 2019
Author: Jack Myint
 
THE COUNCIL'S TAKE
 
 

U.S. Senators Call for Sanctions Against Myanmar's Military Top Brass

On March 20, a bi-partisan group of U.S. Senators led by Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Senator Todd Young (R-IL) wrote a letter to Secretary of State Michael Pompeo and Secretary of Treasury Steven Mnuchin requesting the administration to impose sanctions on Myanmar's Commander-in-Chief Senior General Min Aung Hlaing and other military leaders per the Global Magnitsky Act for "orchestrating massacres" and "violation of human rights" against the Muslim population in Rakhine State. Individuals sanctioned by the Global Magnitsky Act and their affiliates can have their U.S. based assets seized and face travel restrictions to the United States. "The Trump administration has taken no action against these senior officials even though sanctions designations would send a strong message that the United States supports accountability for those perpetrating well-documented human rights abuses against the Rohingya and other ethnic minorities," read the letter. This push comes a week after the U.S. Department of State came out against Myanmar’s government and military for its handling of the situation in Rakhine State in the 2018 edition of the annual "Country Reports on Human Rights Practices." To read the full report, please click here. While holding individual military personnel accountable for their actions during the conflicts in Rakhine over the past two years through targeted sanctions is a reasonable approach, it is important for the Trump Administration to very carefully assess the indirect negative repercussions that broader sanctions against Myanmar institutions for Myanmar's economic and democratization efforts. This is particularly pertinent when dealing with Myanmar's military, which not only controls 25% of the government but also has affiliations in over 70% of Myanmar businesses through its various economic holdings enterprises such as the Myanma Economic Corporation (MEC) and Union of Myanmar Economic Holdings Limited (UMEHL). 

Myanmar Government Drafts Digital Economy Roadmap

On February 26, Myanmar’s Ministry of Planning and Finance finalized its draft of the Myanmar Digital Economy Roadmap to enable digital transformation, governance, trade and innovation, while encouraging inclusive and sustainable economic development in the country. The roadmap targets digital advancement in nine priority sectors: education, healthcare, agriculture, fishery and livestock, tourism and hospitality, manufacturing and small and medium enterprises (SMEs), financial services, technology and the start-up ecosystem, digital trade, transportation and logistics. Per the roadmap, the goal is to increase digital transformation across all of Myanmar’s industry sectors up to 10% by 2020 and 30% by 2025, enable digital technologies utilization of SMEs up to 20% by 2020 and 50% by 2025, as well as increase the market penetration of digital financial service transactions to 15% in 2020 and 30% in 2025. Nationwide mobile subscriptions and internet usage are expected to reach 50% in 2020 and 55% in 2025. Foreign direct investment in the digital economy is expected to reach US$8 billion in 2020 and US$12 billion in 2025. On implementing the roadmap’s targeted goals, a Digital Economy Development Committee has been formed with Vice President U Henry Van Thio as its Patron. The Committee has been tasked to ensure that government policies are in support of creating an innovative and entrepreneurial ecosystem that encourages the growth of Myanmar’s digital economy and the emergence of new jobs related to technology. In doing so, it will work to usher an attractive environment for digital foreign investors to bring in the capital and technical expertise necessary to help Myanmar leapfrog into the digital age.

 
 
IN THIS UPDATE
 
 
National Affairs
Senators ask US to sanction Myanmar army chief
Constitution Amendment Joint Committee meeting to be suspended for about one month
Nationwide committee to be formed for complete cancellation of Myitsone Dam project
Tanintharyi corruption case draws light on project management
BREAKING | Tanintharyi Chief Minister Arrested on Bribery, Corruption Charges
Govt seeks more private sector, foreign help with education
Opinion | For U Shwe Mann, Enemies Lurk Everywhere
Opinion | Identity Politics and Myanmar's Democratic Transition
Parliament approves constitutional amendment committee by 2-to-1
Thura U Shwe Mann gears up for political comeback
Military Warns of 'Battleground' if Constitutional Amendments Mishandled
The NLD's move to amend the constitution is unlikely to succeed
New 45-Member Parliamentary Committee to Create Bill Amending Myanmar’s Constitution
Week in Review: Jumping on the charter amendment bandwagon

Defense & Security
Navy to own submarines soon: its Chief of Staff
Myanmar, Ukrainian firm ink arms plant deal | Article

Economics
Updated National Export Strategy to add new sectors, address constraints
Private Investments Worth $54M for Chin State
This Exchange Has Five Stocks and Very Few Investors. That's About to Change
Nine sectors to have priority under the China-Myanmar Economic Corridor
Asia Investors Split With West Over Myanmar's Rohingya Crackdown
The emergence of Suukyinomics
Trade sanctions by EU, US unlikely: analysts
Daw Suu's Rakhine investment forum speech in full
US businesses eye investment opportunities in Myanmar
High expectations, low confidence at Invest Myanmar Summit
Singapore leads FDI list
Infographic: The Suu Kyi Government’s Performance in Numbers

Energy
Company vows to supply solar power to 500 villages
Commercially proven gas reserves found in offshore Zawtika field
Govt, investors must give and take for more oil and gas profit: expert
Govt. to implement Nantpanga hydropower project in Homalin
Frontier Markets Investment Portfolio: A Mining Site in Northern Myanmar
Myingyan natural gas power station start generates electricity

Financial Services
Crop insurance begins to take root in Myanmar
CBM headed in right direction, bank development expected: experts

Food & Agriculture
More investments needed for expansion in food-processing industry
Fisheries sector forced to restructure as declining demand decimates earnings
Good growth potential for gum crop
Myanmar's agricultural products export reaches over 1 bln USD in over 4 months
FAO assists Myanmar to improve food security

Health & Life Sciences
Public health professionals launch five-year strategic plan
Myanmar facing 'public health disaster' as children as young as 9 get hooked on meth
How to fortify, fast-track public health

ICT
Govt draft roadmap to develop and support digital economy in Myanmar
Huawei keen to guide 5G in Myanmar
Connect to Learn: Exploring VR in the classroom of tomorrow
Southeast Asia hastens 5G shift to close development gap

Infrastructure
Yangon’s ‘new city’ plan raises a billion-dollar question
Residential property market showing signs of life
US$96 million for first phase upgrades of three airports
Myanmar offers tax exemption to entrepreneurs investing in new Yangon city project
Upscale housing project takes shape near Mandalay
State Counselor Vows Proper Scrutiny of all BRI Projects in Myanmar
New Yangon City Project: China, CCCC and Myanmar’s profits
Japan-backed bridge project begins in Yangon

Legislation
Legislature beefs up consumer protections
Consumer Protection Law also applies to public sector: official
Basic Education Bill submitted
Hluttaw passes amendments to consumer law
 
ARTICLE CLIPS
 
 
National Affairs

Senators ask US to sanction Myanmar army chief France 24 21st Mar 2019
Senators called Wednesday for the United States to slap sanctions on Myanmar's army chief, saying more needed to be done to bring accountability over the campaign against the Rohingya. In a letter to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, the four senators said Myanmar has shown "no credible signs of progress" despite widespread international condemnation of the killings and sexual violence against members of the mostly Muslim minority. Senators including Dick Durbin, the number-two Democrat, said that sanctions against Myanmar's army chief, Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, as well as other top officers would demonstrate "US intolerance for behavior that contravenes fundamental human rights."

Constitution Amendment Joint Committee meeting to be suspended for about one month Mizzima 20th Mar 2019
The 45-member constitution amendment joint committee will suspend their meetings for about one month and resume on April 22, committee members said. The announcement came after the joint committee meeting number 8/2019 held on March 19 where they deliberated provisions in Chapter 1 (Basic Principles), Chapter 2 (State Structure), Chapter 3 (Head of State) and Chapter 4 (Legislature). Joint Committee member Aung Kyi Nyunt said, “The process is going regularly and smoothly now. So we will suspend these meetings at the moment. Some of the MPs have to go back to their constituencies. So we will resume our meeting on April 22.”

Nationwide committee to be formed for complete cancellation of Myitsone Dam project Eleven Media 17th Mar 2019
A talk on the complete cancellation of much-criticized Myitsone Dam project was held at the Former Political Prisoners Society (FPPS) office in Yangon yesterday. About 50 political activists from Yangon, Mandalay, Ayeyawady, Kayin and Mon attended the talk. “At the talk, the agreement was reached on the total cancellation of Myitsone Dam project and the formation of the nationwide committee by calling the nationwide conference,” said Dr. Nyo Nyo Thin, the founder of Yangon Watch.

Tanintharyi corruption case draws light on project management The Myanmar Times 14th Mar 2019
On March 11, former Tanintharyi chief minister Daw Lae Lae Maw and three officials from local power distribution company Global Grand Services Co Ltd (GGS) were charged with corruption by the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) under section 55 of the anti-corruption law. Daw Lae Lae Maw is the first chief minister to be charged with corruption since the NLD took power in 2016. According to the statement of the ACC, Daw Lae Lae Maw has been charged with corruption associated with a mowing contract near Dawei airport worth K400 million, allocating K1.9 billion of regional government funds to the Construction Ministry’s Road Management Department and building brick fences for two compounds in Dawei which were purchased under her husband’s name.

BREAKING | Tanintharyi Chief Minister Arrested on Bribery, Corruption Charges The Irrawaddy 11th Mar 2019
Tanintharyi Region Chief Minister Daw Lei Lei Maw was arrested on bribery and corruption charges in Dawei on Sunday, according to the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC). ACC spokesperson U Kyaw Soe confirmed to The Irrawaddy that the chief minister has been detained at Dawei Myoma Police Station, together with Global Grand Services (GGS) Managing Director U Thein Htwe, Director U Aung Myat and General Manager U Thura Ohn, right after the commission opened cases against the four under the anti-corruption law. The arrests come after a month-long investigation in Naypyitaw, Yangon and Dawei carried out between Feb. 4 and March 6.

Govt seeks more private sector, foreign help with education The Myanmar Times 6th Mar 2019
The government needs greater participation by the private sector and foreign institutions to transform the country’s education system, which was neglected during more than half a century of military rule, a British-based business research company said. The Oxford Business Group said in its recent country report that the ongoing “transformation of Myanmar’s education system needs substantial investment” that the cash-strapped government cannot provide on its own.

Opinion | For U Shwe Mann, Enemies Lurk Everywhere The Irrawaddy 5th Mar 2019
In politics, so the saying goes, there are no permanent enemies and no permanent friends—only permanent interests. In Myanmar we have seen an unusual political alliance between State Counselor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and retired General U Shwe Mann evolve over the past six years. But that alliance is now showing cracks. Last week, Myanmar’s Union Parliament voted against extending the term of the Legal Affairs and Special Cases Assessment Commission, which is headed by U Shwe Mann, who is also a former Lower House speaker. The question is, who gave the order not to extend the commission? Executives of the ruling National League for Democracy, or Daw Aung San Suu Kyi herself?

Opinion | Identity Politics and Myanmar's Democratic Transition The Irrawaddy 1st Mar 2019
American political scientist Francis Fukuyama said in an interview that the rise of identity politics was “an unhealthy situation for democracy to be in when people line themselves up according to these birth categories.” The rise of white nationalism and the “black lives matter” movement in the U.S. was mentioned in his book “Identity Politics.”

Parliament approves constitutional amendment committee by 2-to-1 The Myanmar Times 20th Feb 2019
The committee to amend the constitution was approved by a vote in the Pyidaungsu Hluttaw (Assembly of the Union) on Tuesday. MPs from 14 political parties, Tatmadaw (military) MPs and independents met twice to discuss the committee’s formation. In Tuesday’s vote, 389 MPs voted for, 192 against, and three abstained.

Thura U Shwe Mann gears up for political comeback The Myanmar Times 20th Feb 2019
Thura U Shwe Mann, a consummate politician who remains undaunted by the vagaries of politics, is now climbing back to the top and appears to be ready to play a major role in the country’s nebulous political landscape. Once a general and the third most powerful member of the military government during Myanmar’s transition to democracy, he hung up his uniform to join the parliamentary election in 2010 and eventually became speaker of the Pyithu Hluttaw (Lower House). He had very good relations with both the country’s leader and the opposition leader at the time, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi.

Military Warns of 'Battleground' if Constitutional Amendments Mishandled The Irrawaddy 20th Feb 2019
Brig. Gen. Maung Maung on Wednesday warned of national instability if any one political party amends the Constitution with only its goals in mind. “Because our country is in a strategic position, it could become a battleground if a wrong position is taken. It is necessary to be aware of this,” he told reporters in Naypyitaw. The general, who lead’s the military-appointed lawmakers in the Union Parliament, said the Constitution should be amended in line with the law and accused the ruling National League for Democracy (NLD) of using its parliamentary majority in a high-handed manner.

The NLD's move to amend the constitution is unlikely to succeed Frontier Myanmar 20th Feb 2019
IN A DECISION with far-reaching implications, the Pyidaungsu Hluttaw voted on February 6 to appoint a parliamentary committee to review proposed amendments to the military-drafted 2008 Constitution. The vote, which followed a proposal submitted by the National League for Democracy on January 29 – the party’s first bid to amend the constitution since taking office – aroused strong objections from non-elected Tatmadaw MPs.

New 45-Member Parliamentary Committee to Create Bill Amending Myanmar’s Constitution Radio Free Asia 19th Feb 2019
Myanmar’s parliament on Tuesday approved the creation of a 45-member joint committee to write a bill to amend the army-drafted 2008 constitution that the current government views as undemocratic, despite opposition by lawmakers from the military and the main opposition party, legislators said. Before the voting began, several members of parliament, including a military legislator, made requests to discuss the issue during the parliamentary meeting, but parliamentary speaker T Khun Myat rejected them.

Week in Review: Jumping on the charter amendment bandwagon The Myanmar Times 15th Feb 2019
The Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) on Wednesday proposed to draft a bill amending the Constitution to allow the election of chief ministers. U Thaung Aye, the party’s MP for Pyawbwe township in Mandalay Region, said the USDP wants to amend four of the five subsections under Section 261 of the constitution relating to the appointment of chief ministers.

Defense & Security

Navy to own submarines soon: its Chief of Staff Eleven Media 20th Mar 2019
Myanmar will own submarines soon, said Commodore Moe Aung, Chief of Staff (Navy) on March 18 while answering to the media after the Combined Fleet Exercise-Sea Shield 2019. “The Senior General already explained about the possession of submarines. They can be seen at Myanmar navy soon. Submarine arm is an armed forces and its operation area is under water. There are natural disasters as well as dangers from the enemies which can attack anytime. If there will be a problem, it is difficult to save them. So we are considering about long term plan. Another thing is to train submariners. It is required to train the submariners. A skillful submariner needs at least four years training to handle the submarine and to operate it. So our marines are having trainings for a long time,” said the Commodore.

Myanmar, Ukrainian firm ink arms plant deal | Article Asia Times 9th Mar 2019
A Ukrainian company and the Myanmar military have signed a joint-venture agreement to build a plant capable of manufacturing armored personnel carriers (APCs) and self-propelled howitzers, the Myanmar website The Irrawaddy reports. The news first broke on the Defense Blog, an online military magazine, and said the Ukrainian firm, the Great Export Import Company, had confirmed an initial delivery of equipment and machinery for use in the plant, which should be ready to begin production by 2020. The types of APCs that will be made in the plant are said to be eight-wheeled BTR-4Us while the howitzers will be 2S1Us, which are based on the MT-LBu multipurpose chassis.

Economics

Updated National Export Strategy to add new sectors, address constraints The Myanmar Times 21st Mar 2019
Stakeholders from the public and private sector gathered last Friday to discuss the National Export Strategy (NES) 2020-2025, including actions to take to boost Myanmar’s export sector. The first Stakeholders’ Symposium for updating the NES was aimed at boosting Myanmar’s export performance in the global economy and was attended by Vice President U Myint Swe and commerce minister U Than Myint. The event provided stakeholders with an opportunity to examine the current challenges in regard to Myanmar’s export performance as well as the need for a strong export and policy framework to assist development, said U Zaw Min Win, President of the Union of Myanmar Federation of Chambers of Commerce.

Private Investments Worth $54M for Chin State The Irrawaddy 18th Mar 2019
The Chin State government signed four memorandums of understanding (MoUs) with private companies for projects totaling more than $54 million at an investment fair held at the weekend in Yangon, which aimed to stir up foreign investment interest in one of the poorest states of Myanmar. Among the four companies, the biggest project signed for was with Norway Power Co. Ltd. for a power project worth $50 million which will be the first foreign investment in the Chin State.

This Exchange Has Five Stocks and Very Few Investors. That's About to Change Bloomberg 14th Mar 2019
In a colonial building in Myanmar’s largest city, a large screen showed stock prices for a handful of companies. Four people, perhaps tourists, perhaps investors, shuffled around the floor. The clock struck 11. Suddenly the prices changed. Then, in an instant, all the people were gone. That was just another day at Asia’s tiniest bourse, the Yangon Stock Exchange. Home to only five companies, it updates prices just four times a day. And those are the high points. The rest of the time, little happens at all.

Nine sectors to have priority under the China-Myanmar Economic Corridor The Myanmar Times 7th Mar 2019
Myanmar is prioritising nine sectors covering infrastructure projects under the China-Myanmar Economic Corridor although more specific details as to which of the projects have been chosen remain under wraps. These sectors, part of the Myanmar Sustainable Development Plan, include electricity, road, bridge, telecommunication, basic construction, agriculture, transportation, research and technology.

Asia Investors Split With West Over Myanmar's Rohingya Crackdown Bloomberg.com 6th Mar 2019
n a vast convention center in Naypyidaw, Myanmar’s sprawling and eerily empty capital, prospective investors listened politely as local companies pitched opportunities and government officials spoke of the country’s vast economic potential. Yet in the hallways, conversations drifted toward one topic: A military-led crackdown that drove more than 700,000 Rohingya Muslims from the country, prompting allegations of genocide and threats of renewed economic penalties from the U.S. and European Union.

The emergence of Suukyinomics East Asia Forum 1st Mar 2019
State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) administration in Myanmar has been heavily condemned by international policy analysts for its absent economic vision and lack of a tangible policy on minority management. But it seems now there is a plan: Suukyinomics, a brand that began with the announcement on 28–29 January 2019 to amend the 2008 military-backed constitution. Suukyinomics is built on the rule of law and institutional economics. It consists of two broad plans. The Myanmar Sustainable Development Plan (MSDP) aims to achieve a peaceful, prosperous and democratic country. The Myanmar Investment Promotion Plan (MIPP) aims to transition Myanmar to a middle-income economy and persuade foreign investors to part ways with US$200 billion over the next two decades.

Trade sanctions by EU, US unlikely: analysts The Myanmar Times 27th Feb 2019
Analysts are not expecting the European Union or the US to revoke Myanmar’s tariff-free access to their markets over the coming quarters. Following a United Nations report implicating the Tatmadaw in human rights abuses against ethnic minorities in the states of Rakhine, Kachin and Shan in September last year, the EU announced a month later that it was considering trade sanctions against Myanmar. If imposed, the sanctions would potentially revoke Myanmar’s tariff-free access to the EU.

Daw Suu's Rakhine investment forum speech in full The Myanmar Times 23rd Feb 2019
State Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi touted Rakhine State's "untapped" economic potential to investors and trade organisations on Friday in a Japan-sponsored investment forum held in Ngapali beach. But she glossed over violence and humanitarian nightmare in the area, saying the international community had “focused narrowly on negative aspects” of the ongoing northern Rakhine crisis, which led to an estimated 730,000 Muslim refugees fleeing to Bangladesh.

US businesses eye investment opportunities in Myanmar The Myanmar Times 20th Feb 2019
US investors are showing interest in Myanmar following recent efforts to open up and regulate several sectors of the economy, such as banking and finance, and education.Last Thursday, US Ambassador to Myanmar Scot Marciel met with businessmen from the Union of Myanmar Federation of Chambers of Commerce (UMFCCI) to discuss potential investment opportunities available to US businesses.  The US has already sent delegations to Myanmar to review opportunities following the recent slew of reforms in the banking and finance sector, according to the UMFCCI. 

High expectations, low confidence at Invest Myanmar Summit Frontier Myanmar 20th Feb 2019
The Government tried hard to woo big spenders at the recent Invest Myanmar Summit, which focused on attracting foreign investment in about 200 projects altogether worth US$20 billion over the next 20 years, mainly in infrastructure development. State Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi delivered the opening speech at the event in Nay Pyi Taw on January 28 and 29, which saw an unprecedented turnout of 12 Union ministers, 10 regional ministers, and more than 150 regional and state representatives, and attracted nearly 1,600 participants.

Singapore leads FDI list Eleven Media Group Co., Ltd 19th Feb 2019
Singapore has topped the list of foreign investments with over 20 billion USD, which accounts for more than 26 per cent of the total foreign investment, according to Directorate of Investment and Company Administration (DICA). From 1988-89 to 2018-19 fiscal year, the total foreign investment hit nearly 79 billion USD.

Infographic: The Suu Kyi Government’s Performance in Numbers The Irrawaddy 15th Feb 2019
INearly three years after taking office, the National League for Democracy (NLD) has garnered mixed reviews for its efforts to transform the country into a democracy. While campaigning for the 2015 elections that swept it to power, the NLD published a 20-page manifesto outlining its plans for economic development, constitutional reform and peace.

Energy

Company vows to supply solar power to 500 villages The Myanmar Times 21st Mar 2019
Mandalay Yoma Solar Energy, which operates solar mini-grids to power rural regions, will generate solar power in 500 villages within three to five years, the company said. “First, we will supply electricity to 50 villages, and we estimate that up to 500 villages will be electrified within three to five years,” said Nathalie Riseau, the company’s director.  Mandalay Yoma signed a cooperation agreement for the work with Engie, one of the largest renewable energy companies in the world. The company now operates solar mini-grids in Sagaing, Magwe and Mandalay regions and plans to install 50 solar power systems in 2019-2020.

Commercially proven gas reserves found in offshore Zawtika field The Myanmar Times 6th Mar 2019
PTTEP Myanmar Asset, a subsidiary of Bangkok-based PTT Exploration and Production, has found commercially proven gas reserves at the M9 block of the Zawtika project located 300km southwest of Yangon in the Gulf of Mottama. The company’s General Manager Piya Sukhumpanumet said in a press release that one of the successful wells, Zawtika-24, has commercially proven hydrocarbon reserves. Results showed that the well has positively shown proven reserves of 152 metres of net gas sands, more than the expected 41 metres with the latest discovery to prolong Zawtika’s gas production.

Govt, investors must give and take for more oil and gas profit: expert The Myanmar Times 28th Feb 2019
On February 22, the Ministry of Electricity and Energy (MOEE) announced that it will be holding international tenders for 18 onshore and 15 offshore blocks across Myanmar this year.  The tenders have been scheduled at a time when domestic demand for oil and gas far outweighs production levels. Currently, Myanmar is only producing around 2000 million cubic feet of natural gas per day and around 6000 barrels of oil per day, according to U Than Tun (Oil), a former official of Myanmar Oil and Gas Enterprise (MOGE).

Govt. to implement Nantpanga hydropower project in Homalin Eleven Media 20th Feb 2019
Sagaing Region government is planning to implement Nantpanga hydropower project worth over Ks 20 billion in Homalin Township. The project is expected to generate four megawatts of electricity and six billion Kyats has been prepared for the project for this financial year. The ministry will call for tender soon, said Soe Oo, the regional minister for finance on February 11.

Frontier Markets Investment Portfolio: A Mining Site in Northern Myanmar Frontera 19th Feb 2019
The National League for Democracy (NLD) seems to have potentially finally come to the realization that the economy is suffering and therefore that their party is at risk of losing a number of seats in the 2020 elections. This has led the NLD to liberalize several sectors of the economy recently, namely allowing foreign banks to lend locally and announcing the liberalization of the insurance sector from 1st April 2019 while holding the Invest Myanmar conference in Naypyidaw at the end of January where Aung San Suu Kyi marketed the country as being open for business.

Myingyan natural gas power station start generates electricity Eleven Media Group Co., Ltd 6th Mar 2019
Myingyan natural gas power station, which can generate 90 megawatts, is opened on March 2, according to Ministry of Electricity and Energy. The power station is located in Myingyan Township, Mandalay Region and the ministry is planning to provide more electricity to meet the demand of electricity in the summer. The ministry invited international competitive tender in January 2018 for the power station, said Win Khaing, Minister for Electricity and Energy. The power station will use 20 million cubic feet of natural gas from Shwe offshore natural gas block daily. The power station start run for business purpose in February 2019 and at the present, it can generate 90 megawatts. The station is supplying electricity to industrial zones and residential areas in Myingyan, Taungthar, Natogyi and Bagan-NyaungU from Myingyan 132 KV sub-power station and river water supply projects in Myingyan and Myothar industrial zone. VPower Holdings Limited and its local partner Zeya & Associates Co. Ltd. and the ministry signed a five-year purchase agreement on November 7 2018 to buy electricity generated from the power station. At the present, over 40 per cent of family households in Myanmar are gained access to national grid and the ministry is planning to supply the electricity to 55 per cent of family households in 2021.

Financial Services

Crop insurance begins to take root in Myanmar The Myanmar Times 20th Mar 2019
In 2016, Global World Insurance submitted a proposal on offering crop insurance to the Insurance Business Regulatory Board IBRB under the Ministry of Planning and Finance. Last  January, the ministry approved a two-year pilot project for GWI’s crop insurance. The company’s crop insurance is yield-based and the premium is two percent of the market price of rice from one acre (0.4 hectares) of farmland. Should crops be damaged due to bad weather, the insurer will calculate compensation payouts based on the market price per acre of rice harvested in different regions.

CBM headed in right direction, bank development expected: experts The Myanmar Times 15th Feb 2019
The Central Bank of Myanmar (CBM) has begun taking the initial steps to stand as an independent body, local financial experts and economists say. They added that recent actions taken by CBM early this year are seen as effective for the development of the banking sector. The CBM has started the year strong by preparing to tackle illegal money transfers and implement a national payment system.

Food & Agriculture

More investments needed for expansion in food-processing industry The Myanmar Times 21st Mar 2019
The Myanmar processed food industry needs more investment support in order to develop further, U Aye Win, chair of the Myanmar Food Processors and Exporters Association, told The Myanmar Times. Currently, Myanmar processes basic raw commodities such as rice, beans, maize and other agricultural products. Excess products are exported. However, the country also imports value-added processed foods such as canned or dairy products. In that light, Myanmar should increase its focus on manufacturing higher value food products, which will require funds from both local and foreign investors, U Aye Win said.

Fisheries sector forced to restructure as declining demand decimates earnings The Myanmar Times 21st Mar 2019
Myanmar fisheries and marine product exports have been declining over the past year after big buyers like Saudi Arabia and the US stopped importing from the sector last year. Meanwhile, demand trends from Myanmar’s other major trade partners such as Bangladesh are evolving, which has forced the industry to explore new products and strategies. Myanmar exports most of its wild fish and marine products to Thailand and China. Value-added marine products are exported to Japan and the US, while farmed carp and catfish are sold to Bangladesh, India and the UK.

Good growth potential for gum crop The Myanmar Times 21st Mar 2019
The Japanese and Chinese governments have signed agreements to buy gum sterculia from Myanmar. The agreements were signed in Myaing township, Magway Region, on March 9. Gum sterculia, also known as gum karaya or Indian gum tragacanth, is a vegetable gum produced by trees of the genus Sterculia. The gum is used as a thickener and emulsifier in foods, as a laxative, and as a denture adhesive. Locally, the gum is known as say kalarma. Primary buyers of the gum are China, Japan, Taiwan.

Myanmar's agricultural products export reaches over 1 bln USD in over 4 months Xinhua 6th Mar 2019
Myanmar's export of agricultural products reached over 1.28 billion U.S. dollars as of Feb. 22 in present fiscal year 2018-2019 which started in October, according to the Commerce Ministry on Wednesday. The figures showed an increase of 81.9 million U.S. dollars while compared with the same period in last fiscal year 2017-2018 when it showed 1.2 billion U.S. dollars. The country exports rice as the major agricultural product, pulses, corn, rubber, fruits and vegetables and others.

FAO assists Myanmar to improve food security vietnamplus.vn 20th Feb 2019
The UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and the Myanmar government have signed a multi-year framework agreement to improve nutrition and food security in the country while safeguarding and sustainably managing the use of natural resources.

Health & Life Sciences

Public health professionals launch five-year strategic plan The Myanmar Times 4th Mar 2019
The Myanmar Health Assistant Association on Sunday launched a five-year plan to improve the public health sector and the general health of Myanmar people, the association’s president said. "This is the first strategic plan of the association. We tried to compile invaluable input and suggestions from experts and relevant stakeholders," U Myo Thwin, association president, said at the launch of its Strategic Plan (2019-2023) in Yangon on Sunday. Under the plan, the 478-strong staff of the association will implement 12 public health projects in 76 townships in the states and regions of Kachin, Kayin, Shan, Rakhine, Chin, Sagaing, Mandalay, Magwe and Yangon. The projects include disease control, reproductive, maternal, newborn, child and adolescent health, as well as nutrition.

Myanmar facing 'public health disaster' as children as young as 9 get hooked on meth The Straits Times 20th Feb 2019
Mobs of stick-wielding church-goers in Myanmar's northeast used to descend on dealers and addicts in a desperate effort to save their communities from a meth-induced health crisis sweeping the country. But anonymous death threats brought the vigilante operations to a halt. "It simply became too dangerous for us," says Zau Man, leader of the local Baptist church in Kutkai, a town in Shan State scarred by addiction.

How to fortify, fast-track public health The Myanmar Times 20th Feb 2019
As one of the world’s most populous and diverse regions, we can be immensely proud of the progress made, the outcomes achieved, and the lives saved and improved over the past five years. Indeed, through their tenacity and resolve, each of the region’s member states has demonstrated that good health and well-being must be at the very core of development and national progress, that the human right to health matters as a good in itself and is a powerful means to shore-up economic development and the human capital it relies on.

ICT

Govt draft roadmap to develop and support digital economy in Myanmar The Myanmar Times 14th Mar 2019
Published February 26, the Myanmar Digital Economy Roadmap was drafted with a mission of enabling digital transformation, governance, trade and innovation to develop a digital economy and encourage inclusive and sustainable socioeconomic development. That mission is supported by four pillars, a 6 plus 1 strategy, nine priority sectors, 14 goals, 32 short term action plans and 6 longer term action plans, which include drafting a policy to support digital trade and e-commerce, online payments, tax incentives and cybersecurity. They also include drafting a digital economy development master plan and investment promotion plan.

Huawei keen to guide 5G in Myanmar The Nation 20th Feb 2019
HOUGH only 20 per cent of Myanmar’s population have access to 4G services, the nation would be ready to embrace the fifth generation of wireless technology (5G) with the support of Chinese giant Huawei Technologies Co in two or three years, said Zhu Bo, deputy managing director of Huawei Myanmar. “It depends on the requirements of the telecom operators but we will be ready to bring 5G to Myanmar over the next few years,” he said yesterday at a media workshop entitled “Future direction of ICT in Myanmar”.

Connect to Learn: Exploring VR in the classroom of tomorrow Ericsson 20th Feb 2019
Myanmar has usually focused on teacher-centered learning in the past, which makes the use of VR classrooms an exciting development, and something which can change the classroom dynamic in years to come. Typically, students will listen to teachers without asking a lot of questions. With this technology, student-centered learning is encouraged and this is one of the most import things that will allow the methods and standard of education in Myanmar to improve. This will also enable the students to ask questions and do the research on their own, as well as encouraging students to think differently – more creatively. Of course, we believe that this is just the beginning. As VR technology becomes more advanced, its application will eventually increase – not just in Myanmar, but all over the world.

Southeast Asia hastens 5G shift to close development gap Nikkei Asian Review 18th Mar 2019
Southeast Asian nations are scrambling to introduce 5G networks, determined not to fall behind developed nations as the technology is critical to innovations such as autonomous driving and digital medical services. Thailand and Vietnam plan to start 5G services as early as 2020, trailing rich nations by only a year or two. In contrast, they launched 4G services five years after their Western counterparts. The steep costs of 5G infrastructure weigh on telecommunications companies, which are still struggling with heavy spending on 4G technology. This factor may figure in their decisions on whether to exclude cheaper offerings from Chinese company Huawei Technologies, as urged by the U.S. Singapore, which is a regional leader in 5G, said in July that its Singapore Telecommunications had teamed up with Ericsson to test 5G networks. Singtel is also working with Garuda Robotics on drones for security and package delivery. The government plans to use 5G, which offers seamless data transmission, to install about 100,000 smart streetlights equipped with sensors and surveillance cameras. It is also expected to harness the technology for communications involved in automated driving. In Myanmar, where 4G service was fully launched only in 2017, the government aims to shift toward 5G by assigning mobile providers portions of the new spectrum early in the next decade. Health care consultancy Golden Zaneka is exploring telemedicine for rural areas to close the gulf in service with large cities. While most Southeast Asian countries are expected to maintain that course, Vietnam is in a somewhat different position. The Viettel Military Industry and Telecoms Group plans to begin its 5G pilot network this year and aims to develop its own base stations.

Infrastructure

Yangon’s ‘new city’ plan raises a billion-dollar question Frontier Myanmar 21st Mar 2019
At an event in mid February to discuss the building of a “New City” across the river from downtown Yangon, it was revealed that China’s state-owned China Communications Construction Co Ltd had proposed spending $1.68 billion on infrastructure for the project. This seems to contradict the ambassador’s statement about Chinese investors holding back. It’s time to take a closer look at the New Yangon City project led by the Yangon Region government and discuss its partnership with CCCC.

Residential property market showing signs of life The Myanmar Times 8th Mar 2019
Clearer rules on residential property ownership for foreigners and the availability of housing loans is helping support the property market. Asia Construction general manager U Yan Aung said there could be more activities in selling and buying with laws for residential property. The offer of long-term home loans by banks about a year ago have helped as housebuyers do not have to fork out a lump sum to buy them compared to before. That has helped perk interest in the market, with property fairs becoming more popular and developers at the fairs helping to connect potential housebuyers with banks.

US$96 million for first phase upgrades of three airports The Myanmar Times 5th Mar 2019
A raft of agreements between the government and private firms are expected to be signed this month for the upgrading of three regional airports to international standards. The three airports concerned – Heho airport in Shan State, Mawlamyine airport in Mon State and Kawthaung in Tanintharyi Division – will be upgraded to boost regional development as well as improve accessibility.

Myanmar offers tax exemption to entrepreneurs investing in new Yangon city project China.org 2nd Mar 2019
Myanmar is offering zone-wise tax exemption to entrepreneurs investing in a New Yangon City Project, aimed at attracting more investors to the city expansion project being implemented on lands to the west of Yangon River, according to the Myanmar Investment Commission Saturday. Those investing in Zone-1, which is least developed, can get a seven years' tax break, while those investing in Zone-2, which is moderately developed, will have five year's, and for Zone-3, which is developed, will enjoy three-years'. The new Yangon city project is being implemented by the New Yangon Development Company (NYDC), which is fully owned by the Yangon region government.

Upscale housing project takes shape near Mandalay The Myanmar Times 19th Feb 2019
A housing project to be built in Yay Tagon Taung in Mandalay Region’s Patheingyi township is expected to create tens of thousands of jobs, said the company behind the project. The project site is on 202 hectares of land on a golf course owned by the Mandalay City Development Committee about six kilometres east of Mandalay city.

State Counselor Vows Proper Scrutiny of all BRI Projects in Myanmar The Irrawaddy 19th Feb 2019
Thorough scrutiny of the projects under Beijing’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) is needed to assess their likely short- and long-term impacts on the country and the public, State Counselor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi said on Monday at the first meeting of a committee tasked with overseeing implementation of the projects. During her first meeting with members of the Steering Committee for Implementation of the BRI in Myanmar, held in Naypyitaw, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, who chairs the panel, emphasized the need “to make sure that the selected projects are in conformity with national plans, policies and domestic procedures.”

New Yangon City Project: China, CCCC and Myanmar’s profits Eleven Media 18th Feb 2019
If we were to take a look back at the New Yangon City Development Master Plan (hereinafter referred to as the Yangon City Project), one will find that it is directly linked to China’s mega-infrastructure project that is the One Belt One Road (OBOR). Since the “new city” will be built at a location able to easily access the sea, it is one of the most important routes for OBOR. Since the conception of the Yangon City Project, there has been pointed remarks as to prevent possible money laundering, to drown in debts owed to China as well as not to generally be the sacrificial candle that will give light to other nations except ours. Despite criticisms, the project had went ahead with rights given to China Communications and Construction Company (CCCC) with Myanmar gaining extremely slim margins of only 5 per cent and China 95.

Japan-backed bridge project begins in Yangon The Myanmar Times 15th Feb 2019
Construction of a Japan-funded bridge in Myanmar, seen as a symbol of competing interests between China and Japan, kicked off Wednesday with a groundbreaking ceremony in Yangon, the country’s commercial capital. The bridge, funded by a ¥31 billion (K427.5 billion) low-interest loan from the Japan International Cooperation Agency, will be constructed over the Bago River next to one that was built with Chinese aid more than two decades ago. According to JICA, a key objective of the project is to ensure smooth access to and active investment in the Japanese-backed Thilawa Special Economic Zone in Thanlyin township, just southeast of Yangon, which has so far attracted more than $1.5 billion (K2.3 trillion) in investment.

Legislation

Legislature beefs up consumer protections The Myanmar Times 21st Mar 2019
Under the amendments to the 2014 Consumer Protection Law, a consumer protection commission and committee will be formed, said U Swe Tint Kyu, director of the Department of Consumer Affairs. A new commission instead of a central committee will be formed, he added. However, he did not say when the commissions will be set up. The changes in the law were approved by the Pyidaungsu Hluttaw on Friday and must be signed by the president before being enacted.

Consumer Protection Law also applies to public sector: official The Myanmar Times 14th Mar 2019
The public sector as well as the private sector must follow the Consumer Protection Law, according to the Ministry of Commerce’s Consumer Affairs Department. “The law does not discriminate. We will settle any complaints made about government services or goods. The law applies to any product made by the public sector or private sector,” department Director General U Myint Lwin told a press briefing. Last year, the department received over 400 complaints, but none were about government services or goods, said U Swe Tint Kyu, a department director.

Basic Education Bill submitted The Myanmar Times 11th Mar 2019
The Basic Education Bill drafted by the Ministry of Education has been submitted to the Pyithu Hluttaw (Lower House) by a senior ministry official. Deputy Education Minister U Win Maw Tun said on Thursday that the main objective of the bill is to ensure that all school-aged children in the country receive a basic education. The bill will call for education in the country to teach youngsters to abide by the laws, democratic practices and human rights, to become open-hearted, curious, and innovative, to love and conserve the environment, to be able to relay sustainable development knowledge, and to become good world citizens who understand and adopt the principles of equality and peace.

Hluttaw passes amendments to consumer law The Myanmar Times 27th Feb 2019
The bill passed by 410 votes for and 156 against. There was some debate among MPs over a provision in the bill requiring the labelling of goods in the Myanmar language that would take effect a year after the law is enacted, while other provisions take effect immediately after enactment. “It is very rare for enforcement of a law to come in parts,” Daw Khin San Hlaing, MP for Palae township in Sagaing Region, said.