Myanmar Update: June 21, 2019

Myanmar Update | June 21, 2019
Authors: Riley Smith, Jack Myint, Dim Mang, and Elizabeth Rickert
 
LOOKING AHEAD
 
 

June 28: Energy Roundtable - Briefing on Developing Shared Principles for Energy Infrastructure Development in Asia (Washington, DC)

July 4: Data Governance Sub-Committee Meeting (Singapore)

July 26: ASEAN Presidents’ Luncheon Series (Singapore)

 
THE COUNCIL'S TAKE
 
 

Bipartisan Bill to Impose Sanctions on Myanmar Military Reintroduced in U.S. House of Representatives

On June 12, Chairman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs Representative Eliot Engel (D-NY) and former Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee Subcommittee on Asia and the Pacific Representative Steve Chabot (R-OH) reintroduced legislation to impose sanctions on the Myanmar military in response to the humanitarian crisis in Northern Rakhine State. The bill, “The Burma United through Rigorous Military Accountability Act,” (H.R. 3190), would prohibit the expansion of American military assistance to Myanmar until reforms are instituted. The reforms in the bill include the required reporting on crimes against humanity, the imposition of trade, visa, and financial restrictions on those responsible for the crimes mentioned above, the support of investigations into the prosecution of war criminals, and the promotion of reforms to limit the military’s grip on Myanmar’s natural resources. Last Congress, the House passed similar sanctions as an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). Though it won overwhelming bipartisan support in the lower house, it hit a roadblock in the Senate when Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) opposed the amendment. To access the bill, please click here
 

Myanmar Enacts Copyright Law that Replace Copyright Act of 1914

On May 24, Myanmar’s Union Parliament enacted a new Copyright Bill into law, repealing the Copyright Act of 1914.  This new legislative framework aims to protect literary, technology, and artistic works, among others. This act notably affords protection to foreign works, which is a key element in the legislation, given that Myanmar is not a signatory of the Berne Convention, which requires the same copyright protection to nationals and foreigners.

The new law will abide by international standards and practices, ensuring that copyright in literary and artistic work remains though the life of the author plus 50 years after the author’s death.  Works of applied art are protected 25 years after the death of the artist.  Audiovisual works and films are protected 50 years from the date of publication.  This law also provides technological protection measures, as well as prohibiting the unauthorized removal and alteration of digital rights management information.  The final version of the law updates important terms and expands coverage, distinguishing it from economic rights and other related rights.

Offenses for violating this law will include a minimum penalty of imprisonment not exceeding one year, as well as a fine not exceeding MMK 1 million (approximately US$660).  The Copyright Law will take effect after the implementing rules, which are still being deliberated, are announced. With the passages of three other laws, Trademark law, Industrial Design Law, and Patent Law, in addition to the Copyright law, intellectual property legislation is making headway in Myanmar.

Around 20 Companies Commence Exploration Drilling in Myanmar 

Companies that won tenders in 2014 and 2015 will begin exploration drilling either this year or next, according to the production sharing contracts (PSCs) the companies signed with the Ministry of Electricity and Energy’s (MOEE) Myanmar Oil and Gas Enterprise. Approximately 20 oil and gas companies have already started drilling and carrying out other geological activities in Myanmar this year alone. These companies include Thailand’s PTTEP, Australia’s Woodside Energy, South Korea’s Daewoo, and Italy’s ENI. Overall, 32 oil and gas companies from 20 different countries are conducting exploration and production activities in 63 blocks in Myanmar.

Under the PSCs the companies can choose not to continue with drilling activities if there are not sufficient reserves to make the project commercially viable, according to Assistant Secretary of MOEE U Min Min Oo. However, U Min Min Oo also said that if the companies decide not to move into the production phase or renege on any other terms, then MOEE can seize a proportion of the investments that have already been made and deposited in the bank. He clarified that if a company can present valid reason to cease drilling activity, the MOEE will accept it, even if the PSCs commit the company to drilling after exploration activities. Delays will also be allowed if environmental conservation work or compensation-related activities for locals that live around the drilling site take longer than anticipated.

Myanmar’s Electricity Problem Reaches New Heights

According to World Bank’s Myanmar Economic Monitor report, Myanmar needs to invest twice as much in its electricity sector and implement projects three times faster to address its growing electricity demand, which the report estimates will grow at an average annual rate of 11 percent until 2030. Peak demand is expected to reach 8.6 gigawatts (GW) by 2025 and 12.6 GW by 2030, which is a significant increase from the current 3.6 GW.

To meet the projected increased demand for electricity, the World Bank recommends that Myanmar worktowards increasing investment from both domestic and foreign firms at a rate of approximately US$2 billion per year. However, the country’s electricity tariffs are too low, meaning that the state-owned Electric Power Generation Enterprise has been operating at mounting fiscal losses for the last several years. In fiscal year 2018 alone, losses were projected to have reached 750 billion MMK (US$492 million). "The financial position of the power sector has deteriorated significantly over the past few years due to a combination of higher costs and unchanged tariffs requiring large subsidies," the World Bank said in the report. "The weighted average retail tariffs are 40% below cast cost recovery level."

Myanmar’s Ministry of Electricity and Energy (MOEE) has been courting foreign companies to invest in the power sector, particularly in the construction of liquefied natural gas (LNG)-fired power plants. Since early 2018, MOEE has doled out several permits to a number of foreign companies, including Total, Siemens, Zhefu, and TTCL. but negotiations have hit a roadblock over the price of purchase for the electricity produced. Rolling blackouts and brownouts throughout Myanmar, even in major cities such as Yangon and Mandalay, have been ongoing since April 2019. These blackouts and brownouts are expected to continue until the Government takes action to set a reasonable electricity purchase price that is viable for investors and consumers alike. To read the World Bank’s full report, please click here.

 
 
IN THIS UPDATE
 
 
Regional Affairs
More Groundwork and Greater Participation: Gains of the Second Belt and Road Forum
Myanmar president lands in Delhi for Modi’s swearing-in as PM: Why India values ties with Myanmar
Pressure won’t work to resolve Rakhine: Japan
State Counselor to Attend ASEAN Summit in Thailand on June 22-23

National Affairs
Parliament’s Constitution Amendment Panel Completes Review of Charter
Bipartisan House bill seeks to punish Burma for genocide
Gov’t Lifts Ban on Plantation Teak Exports
Aung San Suu Kyi Announces Plan to Contest in 2020 Election
Towards a more-inclusive civil service
Myanmar’s 'next Aung San Suu Kyi' warns political system has 'failed' the country
Foreign education providers seek opportunities in Myanmar
Reforms aim to improve social security system
Myanmar Enacts Copyright Law | Lexology
Amendments seek to curtail power of president, election body
USDP Vows to Bring Back Security-Related Laws if Reelected
Action against U Wirathu to continue per procedure: State Counsellor's Office
States, regions seek greater share of power

Defense & Security
Why Are Old Myanmar-Israel Military Links Under New Scrutiny?
Security tightened in Yangon

Economics
Economy outlook positive pending reform acceleration, says World Bank
World Bank’s Economic Outlook for Myanmar in 6 Points
Foreign insurers bring disruption in untapped Myanmar market
Finance ministry cuts microfinance loan interest rates
Better implementation of the law needed to draw foreign investors
Myanmar prepares to lift its LDC status
Myanmar GDP expected to rise 6.8 percent by 2020
Thilawa special economic zone to launch new phase
Trade Deficit Drops by $1.3 billion in First Half of Fiscal Year
Yangon’s Chief Minister Promises to Bolster Local SMEs
Trade deficit falls for first time since 2013, says govt
IRD to introduce Income tax bill to parliament

Energy
Kyaukphyu power deal expected ‘within weeks’: Supreme Group
Under pressure: Can the ministry’s latest power plan keep the lights on?
Magwe Region to refine crude oil into gasoline
Myanmar faces the risks of climate change impacts caused by deforestation
KBZ, PTT Ink Petrol Agreements
Myanmar announces national environment and climate change policies
What is the future of energy for Myanmar's rural population?
Companies to commence exploratory drilling in 2019 and 2020

Financial Services
Consolidation expected in banking industry as competition heats up
The benefits of joint ventures to Myanmar’s insurance sector
Myanmar signs on as observer for BRI tax cooperation pact
New Competition Commission already under fire
CBM to approve QR code payment transactions soon
Myanmar, Thailand sign agreement to facilitate overland trade
Local insurance providers see growth potential in industry
'Myanmar not quite ready for digital economy'
Myanmar to roll out financial inclusion roadmap

Food & Agriculture
Sowing the seeds of growth in Myanmar
Union Minister, MRF hold meeting on stabilizing paddy price
Farmed fish prices rise on lower production, higher feed costs
Zone for agriculture, manufacturing to be built in Thabeikkyin

ICT
The war for truth in Myanmar’s cyberspace
Telenor eyes 5G opportunities in Myanmar
Telecoms to use Unicode system from Oct 1
Telenor Wins Bid for USF Pilot Project in Ann Township
Wakayama temple introduces cashless payment option
Ooredoo Prepared, Seeks Approval to Bring 5G to Myanmar
Opportunities emerge as fixed broadband market heats up

Infrastructure
Yangon Govt Drops $10 Million Spending Proposals
Bangladesh-China-India-Myanmar-Economic corridor project not abandoned, says China
Myanmar's parliament approves signing as observer in BRI-related mechanism - China.org.cn
Three locations identified for China-Myanmar Economic Corridor
Yangon, Mandalay vie for best-city status
Myanmar to implement sky train project in Yangon, calls public cooperation - Xinhua | English.news.cn
Initial technical report on Muse-Mandalay railway project submitted
Too little, too late for the US around the Mekong? China’s already there
Bus service to Mandalay from Imphal to start soon | Imphal News - Times of India
Gov’t Spells Out Conditions for Signing BRI Deals with China

Manufacturing
Myanmar Manufacturing Sector Accelerates In May – Nikkei
Auto Industry's "Last Frontier"
Nissin Electric shifting production to Myanmar from Thailand, Vietnam

Travel & Tourism
Tourism Ministry Orders Industry Dedollarization
Two tourism zones to be set up in Mandalay
Govt relaxes visa restrictions for Europe, urged to regulate ‘zero-dollar tours’
Myanmar airline rated 7-star for safety
Ministry reminds tourism operators to transact in kyat
Myanmar tackles zero-dollar trap
Promoting coordinated and sustainable tourism in the Chinese market to Myanmar
Myanmar grants visa-on-arrival to 6 more countries to boost tourism
 
ARTICLE CLIPS
 
 
Regional Affairs

More Groundwork and Greater Participation: Gains of the Second Belt and Road Forum More Groundwork and Greater Participation: Gains of the Second Belt and Road Forum 1st Jun 2019
More than responding to criticisms and challenges, the second Belt and Road forum held in Beijing last month confirmed a sustained effort to entrench and expand the six-year old connectivity initiative. The larger attendance for this year’s summit demonstrates the growing appeal of the initiative. Numerous agreements signed with participating countries and references to the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) in important documents of several regional organizations are more than symbolic gains. They, in fact, represent underrated achievements in institutionalizing the BRI. With actual projects completed or underway, the BRI is showing resilience in the face of tremendous political and economic headwinds.

Myanmar president lands in Delhi for Modi’s swearing-in as PM: Why India values ties with Myanmar | India News Times Now Now 30th May 2019
The relationship between India and Myanmar may not have always been a smooth-sailing one, but over the last few years India has made efforts to improve ties with its neighbouring country with which it shares a 1,600 km-long border. Myanmar is regarded as a key partner for India in its battle to end insurgency in India's Northeast. As Myanmar is the only Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) country with which India shares a border, the neighbouring country assumes more significance as India's gateway to South East Asia, and an important factor in the Modi government’s ‘Act East’ policy.

Pressure won’t work to resolve Rakhine: Japan The Myanmar Times 30th May 2019
“If sanctions and applying pressure could solve the Rakhine issue, Japanese government would take action by doing so. Actually, it will make that issue more complicated,” Mr Maruyama said, adding that Japan acknowledges and supports the efforts of Myanmar to resolve the issue. The ambassador urged the international community to recognise the attempts made by Myanmar’s government to address the issue. He added that, at the same time, Myanmar needs to work with the UN to resolve the problem. When the NLD government took office in 2016, Japan pledged to provide US$8 billion in official development assistance over five years and has so far provided US$ 5 billion.

State Counselor to Attend ASEAN Summit in Thailand on June 22-23 The Irrawaddy 18th Jun 2019
State Counselor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi will attend the 34th ASEAN Summit in Thailand on June 22-23. Southeast Asian leaders will discuss issues of regional importance including marine pollution and disaster prevention while seeking to boost economic and security ties with Japan and the US. The State Counselor’s Office announced on Tuesday that Daw Aung San Suu Kyi will attend the summit at the invitation of Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha of Thailand, which is hosting the summit as this year’s ASEAN chair.

National Affairs

Parliament’s Constitution Amendment Panel Completes Review of Charter The Irrawaddy 14th Jun 2019
The Union Parliament’s Charter Amendment Committee on Thursday completed reviewing the entire Constitution for possible amendments. It will submit a report on its findings to Parliament next month. Committee secretary U Myat Nyana Soe, who is also an Upper House lawmaker for the ruling National League for Democracy (NLD), said the report recommends that various provisions of the Constitution be repealed, amended, added to, or retained. The committee, formed on Feb. 19, is tasked with reviewing the charter, reporting its findings to Parliament not later than July 17, and drafting an amendment bill based on Parliament’s debate of the findings.

Bipartisan House bill seeks to punish Burma for genocide The Hill 12th Jun 2019
A pair of powerful House lawmakers introduced legislation Wednesday intended to punish the Burmese government for its brutal campaign targeting ethnic minority groups across the country. Sponsored by Reps. Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.) and Steve Chabot (R-Ohio), the proposal aims to hold Burma's military junta accountable for a long-running campaign of violence against the Rohingya, a Muslim group occupying western regions of the state, as well as more recent campaigns targeting other minority groups within the Buddhist-majority country. Among the penalties, the bill would bar any new military assistance to Burma until the regime enacts reforms; slap new trade sanctions on the government; and impose new visa and financial limits on the military leaders behind the atrocities.

Gov’t Lifts Ban on Plantation Teak Exports The Irrawaddy 11th Jun 2019
The Myanmar government will again allow the exportation of raw teak and timber from state and privately-owned plantations, Ministry of Natural Resources and Environmental Conservation deputy permanent secretary U Kyaw Zaw said, but a ban on raw teak and timber from natural forests will remain in place. U Kyaw Zaw said the decision was finalized on May 31. “Only timber from private and state-owned plantations will be allowed for export. We have already adopted proper verification procedures, because government leaders are very concerned that timber from natural forests could be mistakenly allowed for export,” he told The Irrawaddy.

Aung San Suu Kyi Announces Plan to Contest in 2020 Election The Irrawaddy 10th Jun 2019
President U Win Myint and State Counselor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi will contest the 2020 general elections, said spokesperson of the ruling National League for Democracy (NLD) U Myo Nyunt. “The country will continue to need people of a high caliber. Yes, they will stand for the [2020] election,” U Myo Nyunt told reporters after the meeting of the central executive committee of the NLD on Saturday. The spokesperson, however, did not mention the constituencies in which the two are preparing to contest. Political analyst U Ye Htun suggested that the official announcement about their contest in the 2020 general elections represents the NLD’s confidence about its prospects in the next poll.

Towards a more-inclusive civil service The Myanmar Times 7th Jun 2019
Since coming to power in 2016, the National League for Democracy (NLD)-led government has continually stressed the need to establish an “efficient government” that would work for the “benefit of the people,” strengthen the “rule of law,” and “establish a society free of corruption.” In response, Sweden and UNDP’s partnership in Myanmar over the past few years has focused on strengthening key democratic governance institutions (e.g. parliament), and enhancing the quality of public service delivery, including through reform of the civil service.  

Myanmar’s 'next Aung San Suu Kyi' warns political system has 'failed' the country SBS News 6th Jun 2019
A young female activist is hoping to help bring "real" democracy to Myanmar - succeeding where her idol Aung San Suu Kyi has "failed". Twenty-seven-year-old Thinzar Shunlei Yi is one of several youth activists in the Southeast Asian nation pushing her government to better deliver for its people. Myanmar transitioned from military rule to quasi-democracy in 2015. But while visiting Australia this week, Thinzar Shunlei Yi told SBS News her country has a very long way to go. "I want [Myanmar to] embrace humanity, democracy and human rights," she told SBS News in an exclusive interview.

Foreign education providers seek opportunities in Myanmar The Myanmar Times 6th Jun 2019
Union of Myanmar Federation of Chambers of Commerce and Industry (UMFCCI) officials recently met with private education providers from the US, UK and Canada to discuss their interest in investing in the country’s education industry. Acting Director General of Directorate of Investment and Company AdministrationU Thant Sin Lwin said Chinese education providers were also interested in setting up centres teaching the Chinese language. UMFCCI vice chair U Maung Maung Lay said as an emerging economy, Myanmar needs a trained workforce and these education providers can fill the void for high quality education.

Reforms aim to improve social security system The Myanmar Times 5th Jun 2019
The Social Security Board says it is cooperating with the International Labour Organization (ILO) to implement an all-inclusive social security system in Myanmar. Reforms will be made to social security information, management, health assistance and legal affairs, said U Maung Maung Aye, director general of the board. “We are developing a management information system for social security and reviewing the 2012 Social Security Law to bring it in line with international standards. On Saturday, a pilot project to make it easier to get insurance payments for injuries at work was conducted in Pyigyitagun township in Mandalay and Hlaing Tharyar township in Yangon.

Myanmar Enacts Copyright Law | Lexology Lexology 5th Jun 2019
Myanmar’s Copyright Law was finally enacted into law on May 24, 2019, effectively repealing the old Copyright Act of 1914. The law lays out the new legislative framework for the protection of literary and artistic works and other related rights, to be implemented through administrative bodies and subsidiary regulations that will be issued in due course. Arguably the most notable feature of the new Copyright Law is that it accords copyright protection to foreign works, unlike the repealed Copyright Act of 1914.

Amendments seek to curtail power of president, election body The Myanmar Times 3rd Jun 2019
The amendments want regional and state legislatures, instead of the president, to appoint state and regional chief ministers. They also seek to reduce the authority of the president to form regional and state governments.  Under the 2008 constitution, the president is allowed to make changes and additions and specify the number of ministers in regions and states. The amendments want to require the approval for such changes not only of the state or regional hluttaws but also of the chief minister.  U Maung Thin, MP for the USDP, who has taken the lead in pushing for the amendments, said the aim of the changes is to strengthen the Union system and the chief ministers. 

USDP Vows to Bring Back Security-Related Laws if Reelected The Irrawaddy 3rd Jun 2019
The chairperson of the former ruling Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) U Than Htay said his party will restore security-related laws that were abolished by the ruling National League for Democracy (NLD) party when they are re-elected, in a video released by his party. At a rally staged by the USDP in Irrawaddy Region’s Eimme Township on Saturday, U Than Htay said the NLD revoked laws which are crucial for the country’s security after power was transferred to them in March 2016. “With the emotion that they were aggrieved (jailed) because of those laws or other reasons, [the NLD] abolished around five laws,” he told the audience.

Action against U Wirathu to continue per procedure: State Counsellor's Office Eleven Media Group Co., Ltd 1st Jun 2019
Authorities issued an arrest warrant for U Wirathu and continued measures will be taken according to the procedures, said State Counsellor's Office Director General Zaw Htay.  Zaw Htay made the remark after a question was raised by a reporter during a press conference on the activities within the third year of the government's term held in Nay Pyi Taw on May 31. As the ministries of religious affairs and home affairs are found to be trying to take action against the monk, the reporter asked about any government order or the Ministry of Religious Affairs and Culture's own action.

States, regions seek greater share of power The Myanmar Times 31st May 2019
Chief ministers of several states and regions are urging more decentralisation and less bureaucracy to speed the way to a federal system for the country. “We chief ministers are very active in inviting investments in our states and regions, but we are hampered by the central government. Without sufficient decentralisation, it will be hard to streamline and simplify the investment process,” U Zaw Myint Maung, chief minister of Mandalay Region, said this week at a workshop on boosting investment in northern Myanmar. At the event, Salai Lian Luai, chief minister of Chin State, where only four townships are electrified, said that although the state has hydropower, the effort to bring power to more townships is delayed because of the need for central government approval.

Defense & Security

Why Are Old Myanmar-Israel Military Links Under New Scrutiny? The Diplomat 11th Jun 2019
Last week, media reports surfaced that Myanmar military officials had attended an Israeli military expo, in spite of human rights issues that had led Israel to restrict aspects of security collaboration between the two countries. While the specifics remain unclear, the reports have nonetheless contributed to yet another round of scrutiny on the defense aspect of Israel-Myanmar cooperation. The idea of Israel-Myanmar security cooperation is not a new one. There have been reports that trace intelligence cooperation back to the 1950s, and training and arms sales from the 1990s onwards, in spite of occasional denials by Israeli authorities.

Security tightened in Yangon Eleven Media Group Co., Ltd 6th Jun 2019
Due to some terror rumors, the Region government has taken stricter security measures at crowded places such as famous pagodas, airport and VIP buildings in Yangon, said Colonel Aung Soe Moe, Region Minister for Security and Border Affairs, at the press conference on the Region government’s the undertakings during the third-year tenure, on June 5. No-2 security police force is responsible for security in Yangon Region. There were terror attacks in other countries. As we have got other news, we are taking security measures effectively. We are also working for the security of embassies and diplomatic houses,” he added.

Economics

Economy outlook positive pending reform acceleration, says World Bank The Myanmar Times 18th Jun 2019
Supported by higher productivity in the sectors currently undergoing liberalisation, such as the retail and wholesale and insurance sectors, and backed by a continuous roll-out of the state reform agenda, growth should accelerate to 6.7pc by fiscal 2020-21, said Hans Anand Beck, lead economist at the World Bank. “Building reform momentum now is critical. There are signs that market sentiment is rising as the reforms promised under the Myanmar Sustainable Development are gradually being passed. For instance, insurance liberalisation, tax reform and transparent investments in the power sector,” he said.

World Bank’s Economic Outlook for Myanmar in 6 Points The Irrawaddy 18th Jun 2019
Despite a global economic slowdown, the latest World Bank report projects a positive outlook for Myanmar’s economy due to accelerated reform implementation, infrastructure spending and investment in and liberalization of sectors such as wholesale and retail, insurance and banking. The World Bank’s Myanmar Economic Monitor Building Reform Momentum report, launched on Tuesday, said Myanmar’s economic growth is expected to rise to 6.5 percent in the 2018-19 fiscal year which starts October 1, thanks to strong performances by the industrial and services sectors. This is compared to 6.4 percent during the Transition Period of April 2018 to September 2018.

Foreign insurers bring disruption in untapped Myanmar market Nikkei Asian Review 12th Jun 2019
Myanmar's insurance market will soon face a sea change led by technologies and expertise brought in by foreign companies. A total of 14 foreign insurers will enter the Southeast Asian country's market by the end of this year through either wholly owned subsidiaries or joint venture companies with local peers, the Nikkei Asian Review has learned. A greater variety of insurance products is expected to appear as Myanmar's government plans to open its insurance market to foreign companies and ease regulations simultaneously, making it possible to use information obtained through the latest technologies such as artificial intelligence and satellites.

Finance ministry cuts microfinance loan interest rates The Myanmar Times 11th Jun 2019
The Microfinance Business Supervisory Committee under the ministry issued Directive (1/2019) to revise interest rate for microfinance loans and saving on June 5.  The committee amended the interest rate where a loan of K100 monthly will be charged K2.30 and the yearly maximum interest rate will be 28 percent. The previous rate was for K100 monthly at K2.50 and the yearly maximum interest rate is at 30pc. In comparison, the directive has decreased 2pc of the yearly interest rate.  

Better implementation of the law needed to draw foreign investors The Myanmar Times 10th Jun 2019
U Aung Naing Oo pointed out that having a fairly large population (according to the World Bank, the country’s population stood at 53.4 million in 2017) and low labour costs were not enough to draw foreign investors to Myanmar. He added that political uncertainties, poor physical infrastructure, lack of skilled labour, an underdeveloped capital market, high taxes and a legal system with a hodgepodge of laws dating back to the British colonial era has held back investors. The Myanmar legal framework requires an overhaul and has to be better rolled out and enforced.

Myanmar prepares to lift its LDC status Mizzima Myanmar News and Insight 7th Jun 2019
THE Ministry of Planning and Finance and the United Nations Conference on Trade and Investment (UNCTAD) jointly held a workshop on lifting Myanmar out of the Least Developed Countries (LDC) category at Kempinski Hotel in Nay Pyi Taw state media reported. Deputy Minister for Planning and Finance, U Maung Maung Win, delivered the opening speech and UNCTAD’s Head of Small Island Developing States (SIDS) Mr. Pierre Encontre delivered an address as well. The workshop aims to generate ideas and suggestions to raise Myanmar out of LDC status, making the transition period for LDC Graduation smooth, acquiring good opportunities, observing the experiences of other countries, and maintaining international support.

Myanmar GDP expected to rise 6.8 percent by 2020 Eleven Media Group Co., Ltd 6th Jun 2019
Myanmar's economy is expected to grow in coming years while the country's GDP is estimated to rise to 6.8 percent in 2020, Vice President Myint Swe quoted Asian Development Bank as saying. The Vice President delivered an opening speech at the Myanmar EU Economic Forum held in Nay Pyi Taw on June 5. "Myanmar enacted the Competition Law in 2015, the New Myanmar Investment Law in 2016 and the New Myanmar Company Act in 2017 to attract more foreign investment. Under the Company Act, companies are allowed to register online and more transparency and fewer restrictions are guaranteed. As a result, foreign investors will be able to own up to 35 percent of shares in a domestic company. Foreign companies are allowed to make 100 percent investment in a foreign-owned wholesale and retail company," said Myint Swe.

Thilawa special economic zone to launch new phase Bangkok Post 6th Jun 2019
A Japan-backed special economic zone in Myanmar is expanding as an alternative production hub for China and Vietnam, attracting growing numbers of Japanese and other foreign firms to the outskirts of Yangon. More than half of the total developed area of 5.83 million square metres in the Thilawa Special Economic Zone is already occupied, said Tomoyasu Shimizu, president of Myanmar Japan Thilawa Development Ltd, or MJTD, the operator of the economic zone. Since its opening in 2015, 105 companies have moved into the zone or signed tenancy contracts through last month, with 90 firms under full foreign ownership and 13 foreign-Myanmar joint ventures.

Trade Deficit Drops by $1.3 billion in First Half of Fiscal Year Myanmar Business Today 4th Jun 2019
During the first six months of FY 2018-2019, the trade deficit has dropped by $1.315 billion compared to the same period during FY 2017-2018. This is according to data supplied by U Maung Maung Win, Deputy Minister of the Ministry of Commerce, at a meeting of the Pyidaungsu Hluttaw on May 23. He added: “Myanmar exported $8.306 billion of products during the first six months of the fiscal year 2018-2019 [October 2018-March 2019]. Most of the products are finished clothing, natural gas, metal, and rice.”

Yangon’s Chief Minister Promises to Bolster Local SMEs Myanmar Business Today 4th Jun 2019
U Phyo Min Thein, Chief Minister of Yangon, promises that his regional government has plans to bolster the productivity of, and also protect registered small and medium enterprises. “We have our lists of SMEs as well as those registered at Yangon City Development Committee and other sectors. Therefore, we have plans to protect SMEs and boost their productivity based on our registration entries,” said U Phyo Min Thein. He made this promise at the monthly meeting between Vice President of Myanmar and local businessmen on May 22 at UMFCCI.

Trade deficit falls for first time since 2013, says govt The Myanmar Times 3rd Jun 2019
“We reduced the trade deficit year-on-year to a low of US$905 million on May 10 for this fiscal year,” he said during press conference held at the Ministry of Information on May 29. For this fiscal year ending September 30, export volume is projected to be $15.3 billion while imports are forecast to hit $15.8 billion, so deficit is expected to be around $500 million, the deputy minister said. “Despite criticisms of the country’s trade deficit, Myanmar is a developing country so it needs to import significant amounts of goods and services,” U Aung Htoo said, adding that only four percent of total imports are luxury goods.

IRD to introduce Income tax bill to parliament The Myanmar Times 30th May 2019
He said the new legislation will modernise the rules and “effectively cover” different parts of the economy, catching up with international standards. The old income tax law was enacted since 1974, hence the law is no longer up to date and not in line with international standards.  U Min Htut added the department is ready to submit the new law to the parliament once the tax management bill, which is currently sitting in Pyidaungsu Hluttaw since 2018, is approved.  The tax management bill seeks to reorganise the various tax laws, from commercial tax law, income tax law, specific goods tax law, and union taxation law. The purpose is to allow taxpayers to follow the regulations more easily.

Energy

Kyaukphyu power deal expected ‘within weeks’: Supreme Group Frontier Myanmar 13th Jun 2019
The consortium developing a 135-megawatt power project at Kyaukphyu in Rakhine State expects final approval of a power purchase agreement within weeks, a spokesperson says. Myanmar’s Supreme Group and Chinese state-owned firm Sinohydro are jointly developing the US$180 million project, which will use gas from the Shwe field and generate power for distribution in Rakhine State. The companies signed a letter of acknowledgement for the conclusion of the PPA negotiations with Minister for Electricity and Energy U Win Khaing on the sidelines of the Belt and Road Forum in Beijing on April 28. However, the agreement still requires final government sign-off, said Supreme Group deputy chief executive officer U Htu Htu Aung.

Under pressure: Can the ministry’s latest power plan keep the lights on? Frontier Myanmar 12th Jun 2019
West of the downtown area, across the Yangon River, there’s a narrow spit of land that ends at the mouth of Twante Canal, with the island of Seikgyikanaungto to the west. For a brief period nearly three years ago, this site was to be the home of a power plant. It remains empty except for a huge transmission tower with high-voltage lines that span the river, and a concrete road that runs parallel to the shore. The area that was cleared for the plant is now overgrown, the hard-packed brown soil hidden beneath scrub and weeds. The site is symbolic of the indecision, lack of planning and government dysfunction that have conspired to create crippling power shortages in Yangon and other parts of the country this year.

Magwe Region to refine crude oil into gasoline The Myanmar Times 11th Jun 2019
Magwe’s Minister of Natural Resources, Environment, Electricity and Energy U MyintZaw said arrangements were being made, including giving permission to three companies - Power 95, Myanma Mandai and Pyae Sone Win – to refine crude oil into gasoline. Another two companies will be given permission out of 10 that have applied. Hand-dug oil wells continues to be a lucrative source of income for regional governments. Magwe has received K14 billion from June 2016 to June 2019, from K7.5 billion during the previous government’s term. 

Myanmar faces the risks of climate change impacts caused by deforestation Eleven Media Group Co., Ltd 10th Jun 2019
Myanmar is facing the risks of climate change impacts as the country’s annual deforestation rate between 2010 and 2015 reached 1.72 per cent, said Ohn Win, Union Minister for Natural Resources and Environmental Conservation at a workshop on the suggestion on the analytical results of the village firewood plantation law and bylaw, at Tungapuri Hotel in Nay Pyi Taw on June 7. In his opening speech, the Union Minister said, “The country’s forest resources are declining due to the facts such as agricultural extension, rapid urbanization, high demands for firewood, excessive timber extraction and illegal timber logging. According to the FAO’s FRA-2015, the forest coverage area accounts for 42.92 per cent of the country’s total area. The climate changes hamper the sustainable development of the country.

KBZ, PTT Ink Petrol Agreements The Irrawaddy 10th Jun 2019
The privately owned Kanbawza Group of Companies (KBZ), of Myanmar, and the Thai state-owned PTT Public Company (PTT) have signed two partnership agreements to invest in fuel oil storage and retail distribution in Myanmar, according to a KBZ press release. On Sunday, two branches of KBZ—the Brighter Energy Company Ltd. and the Brighter Energy Retail Company Ltd.— signed two major agreements with PTT subsidiary PTT Oil and Retail Business Public Co. Ltd. (PTTOR). Under a Development of Oil Terminal agreement, the two will construct a fuel oil storage tank and a liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) filling plant, to be completed by 2021.

Myanmar announces national environment and climate change policies Mizzima Myanmar News and Insight 6th Jun 2019
The Government of Myanmar yesterday announced its vision for the country’s environmental protection and climate action, launching two new policies that will guide Myanmar’s environmental management and climate change strategy, according to a UN Environment statement. Myanmar is widely considered one of the most vulnerable countries in the world to the impacts of climate change, and its renowned biodiversity and natural resources are under increasing pressure as the country develops. More intense and more frequent floods, cyclones and droughts have caused immense loss of life and damage to infrastructure and the economy.

What is the future of energy for Myanmar's rural population? Eco-Business 31st May 2019
Among the 10 countries that make up the Asean, Myanmar has the highest percentage of renewables in its energy mix - hydropower constitutes 65 per cent of generated electricity. But this figure alone masks the country’s absymal rate of electrification, with chronic power shortages a regular occurence and more than 40 per cent of its total population still lacking access to the national grid. Sixty per cent of Myanmar’s rural populace live off gid, relying on polluting, expensive kerosene lamps and firewood to illuminate their homes.

Companies to commence exploratory drilling in 2019 and 2020 The Myanmar Times 30th May 2019
This is the next phase after seismic surveys and testing operations were carried out over the past five years under the terms of the Production Sharing Contracts (PSCs) between the companies and the government. It includes both onshore and offshore drilling.  Around 20 oil and gas companies, including Thailand’s PTTEP, Italy’s ENI, South Korea’s Daewoo and Australia’s Woodside Energy have commenced drilling and other geological and seismic activities in Myanmar so far this year. “The companies have reached the drilling phase under the contract. Should they decide that it is not commercially viable to move on to production after drilling has been conducted, they can choose not to continue with the contract,” said U Min Min Oo, assistant secretary of the MOEE.

Financial Services

Consolidation expected in banking industry as competition heats up The Myanmar Times 5th Jun 2019
“Inevitably, foreign banks will win market share from local banks and we see more mergers of local banks in response to a more competitive market,” CBM vice governor U Soe Thein said in a May 28 interview. U Soe Thein said the CBM will be granting licenses for foreign banks to set up subsidiary banks in the country in addition to having their bank branches here. Setting up subsidiaries in the country will allow these banks to offer retail-banking services. “Generally, they’ll be able to offer most services. For now, they can already provide deposit and loan services,” he said.

The benefits of joint ventures to Myanmar’s insurance sector The Myanmar Times 3rd Jun 2019
On April 5, 2019 the ministry identified Prudential Hong Kong, a subsidiary of the UK’s Prudential; the US’ Chubb Tempest Re; Canada’s Manufacturers Life Insurance Company (Manulife); Japan’s Dai-ichi Life Insurance Company; and Hong Kong’s AIA Company, which operates as a subsidiary of the pan-Asian firm AIA Group, as preferred applicants for foreign life insurance licences. This follows the MoPF’s announcement in January 2019 that foreign companies would be allowed to enter the market to sell life and non-life insurance products.

Myanmar signs on as observer for BRI tax cooperation pact The Myanmar Times 31st May 2019
The mechanism is being established to deal with the complexities of business development, taxes, trade, and infrastructure investments that will arise with the development of China’s BRI, U Maung Maung Win told a briefing at the Pyidaungsu Hluttaw (Assembly of the Union) on Wednesday. Thirty-four countries, including Cambodia, Indonesia and Bangladesh, have signed memorandums of understanding as founders of the mechanism, and 16 countries, including Singapore, and six organisations have signed on as observers. Myanmar has agreed in principal to participate as an observer and will submit the plan to the assembly for approval, said U Maung Maung Win.

New Competition Commission already under fire The Myanmar Times 18th Jun 2019
Myanmar’s professed commitment to competition reform has come under fire after the government packed the new Competition Commission with bureaucrats serving under a minister. Six out of the 11-member body, including the chair, are government officials, while only one identifies as an economist. Appointing Commerce Minister U Than Myint as Commission chair is “questionable” since his own ministry has been called out for protectionism, said U Aung Khant, who heads a Yangon-based policy think tank. The appointment also deviates from international best practices, where governments usually delegate this area of decision-making to technocrats, independent of vested interests and political pressures. For example, none of the competition authorities in India, Hong Kong, Singapore and the UK is headed by a politician. But criticism goes beyond the appointees. Local business people have no idea how serious the Commission is, according to Myanmar businessman U Zaw Naing, who owns an IT firm and who supported Daw Aung San Suu Kyi in the 2015 election.

CBM to approve QR code payment transactions soon The Myanmar Times 18th Jun 2019
Digital payments using QR codes will be introduced to Myanmar as soon as the framework for such payments are ready. Shanghai-based financial services company UnionPay International’s (UPI) QR code system accessible through mobile phones would be made available when the Central Bank of Myanmar (CBM) makes the official announcement. UPI operates as a subsidiary of China UnionPay, which has the largest credit- and debit-card network in the world allowing payments to be transacted through online and mobile platforms.

Myanmar, Thailand sign agreement to facilitate overland trade The Myanmar Times 18th Jun 2019
Overland cross-border trade between Myanmar and Thailand will officially commence at the end of July following an agreement to allow vehicles from both sides across the border to facilitate the transportation of goods between the two countries.The agreement, which followed discussions that started a year ago, will see the governments of both countries issue licenses to logistics companies to transport goods overland through the Yangon (Thilawa)-Myawaddy-Mae Sot-Bangkok (Laem Chabang) route. Under the agreement, 100 vehicles from each country will be granted temporary one-year passes to transport goods across the border along the route. Thilawa would be where all Thai vehicles will have to stop for customs inspections while Thailand will carry out customs inspections in Mae Sot.

Local insurance providers see growth potential in industry The Myanmar Times 18th Jun 2019
The government is expecting a total of 29 foreign and local life and non-life insurance companies to operate in Myanmar. So far, four foreign life insurance companies have applied to form joint ventures with local partners while five non-life foreign insurance companies may also form similar partnerships, Daw Sandar Oo, the Chair of Myanmar Insurance Association, said during the Into Myanmar: Insurance Summit 2019 in Yangon yesterday. In Myanmar, insurance penetration stands at just 0.07 percent of GDP, with the market valued at just US$70 million in 2016-17. Non-life insurers contributed to more than 70pc of the market. There are 30 categories of insurance products now being offered, with property insurance representing 80pc of total non-life income, according to Myanmar Insurance Association. 

'Myanmar not quite ready for digital economy' The Myanmar Times 18th Jun 2019
Myanmar has prepared a digital transformation roadmap for the years 2018 to 2025 built off a master plan drafted by the Digital Economy Development Committee (DEDC). Yet, the country is not ready for the digital economy, if indicators such as network readiness index, e-government development index, cyber security index and ICT development index are anything to go by. Based on measurements on digital readiness, Myanmar has a long way to go, as indicators showed that the country ranked among the lowest in a 10-member Asean grouping.

Myanmar to roll out financial inclusion roadmap Asia First 13th Jun 2019
Myanmar is looking at launching a roadmap for financial inclusion by next month after the liberalisation of the banking and insurance sectors by allowing 100% foreign direct investment (FDI), said Thant Zin, director at the Financial Regulatory Department (FRD). The roadmap, which is supported by the United Nations Capital Development Fund, seeks to boost the country’s financial sector in the next few years until 2022 and will oversee three key sectors: demand, supply, and regulations. Zin said the roadmap aims to enhance access, usage, and quality of financial services, and will focus on supporting the national financial inclusion strategy and implementation plan, elevating capacity-building to improve the ecosystem, promoting innovations through digital platforms, and increasing awareness on financial education and consumer protection.

Food & Agriculture

Sowing the seeds of growth in Myanmar The Myanmar Times 5th Jun 2019
Myanmar’s farms are well diversified, with most farms producing rice paddy during the monsoons and other crops such as beans, pulses, oilseeds and maize, during the cool and dry seasons. Yet, the country’s agricultural productivity is low, a key reason why farm profits are amongst the lowest in Asia. For example, to harvest rice, one day of work generates only 23 kg of paddy in Myanmar, compared to 62 kg in Cambodia, 429 kg in Vietnam, and 547 kg in Thailand. This low productivity can be attributed to the dearth of quality seeds and lack of an enabling environment for the private sector, which can stimulate seed imports or production and multiplication of seeds.

Union Minister, MRF hold meeting on stabilizing paddy price The Global New Light of Myanmar 11th Jun 2019
Union Minister for Agriculture, Livestock and Irrigation Dr. Aung Thu, Deputy Minister U Hla Kyaw, Permanent Secretaries, directors general, Myanmar Rice Federation (MRF) Chairman and members, private business owners and officials from public companies attended a meeting held in the meeting hall Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Irrigation Union Minister Office in Nay Pyi Taw yesterday afternoon. The meeting was held to discuss increasing public-private cooperation with regards to declining paddy prices and alleviating difficulties faced by the farmers. In the meeting the Union Minister invited discussions on matters in which the ministry was required to do to resolve the matter of declining paddy price, provide immediate assistant and help to farmers facing losses, setup work processes to stabilize paddy price in the long run and increase public-private cooperation. The meeting then discussed balancing the value of investment and production, actual implementation works according to designated base price, difficulties in field purchases and drying machine in storage, acquisition of short term loan, increasing purchasing power, preparation for forthcoming raining season, coordination between relevant departments toward speedy inspection and approval of standards and norms for export sale, issuing necessary notifications to implement contract farming, increasing the paddy purchase of mills by fulfilling the mills’ energy requirements it is learnt.

Farmed fish prices rise on lower production, higher feed costs The Myanmar Times 11th Jun 2019
The drop in overall fish stocks to satisfy local demand has been made worse by the non-availability of wild-caught fish from the lakes during the non-fishing period and fish-breeding season. Myanmar bans marine fishing from June to August and bans fishing from ponds between May and July to facilitate the breeding season. U Win Kyaing noted that prices started to creep up last summer on a combination of a stronger US dollar and Saudi Arabia’s ban on Myanmar’s fish exports. “The Saudi ban on Myanmar’s fish exports led fish farmers to reduce breeding in order to stem their losses,” he said.  That led to a squeeze in local supply. Meanwhile, the stronger dollar made it costlier for fish breeders to import fish feed and other equipment. 

Zone for agriculture, manufacturing to be built in Thabeikkyin The Myanmar Times 11th Jun 2019
The project will be located on 3237 hectares in Ohn Ta Kue, Ohn Paing, Pay Taw and Gway Maw villages. The company has sought a land-use permit for 728 hectares in the initial phase, the company’s project adviser, U Kyaw Swar Myint, said. “The land-use permit is still being sought, and we have presented details of the project to regional chief minister. We will start it when the permit is granted. As pilot project, we will begin on 728 hectares,” he said. Asian bamboo will be planted in the initial phase, and bamboo-based luxury products and handicrafts will be produced for the international market. K10 billion will be invested in the initial 1800 acres. A training school will be established and free courses offered for residents. Job opportunities will also be created. “We can make many products from bamboo; for example, paper and wood replacements. It can be used in buildings, and we used technology to overcome the termite problem so that it last for 20 or 30 years. India is widely using the products, and we can export them to Europe as well,” U Kyaw Swar Myint said.

ICT

The war for truth in Myanmar’s cyberspace Coda Story 4th Jun 2019
On February 20, a stream of photos of arrived via WhatsApp. The first was of a young woman with the traditional thanakha tree bark paste carefully applied on her cheeks. She was resting her chin on her palm and smiling sweetly at the camera: the sort of photo a loved one might keep as their phone background. The photos that followed showed her dead on the floor, her left cheek shattered by a bullet, her face spattered with blood. According to the sender, her name was Ma Ye Ye Soe, she was 19, belonged to the Rakhine Buddhist ethnic group, and lived in a village called Myin Hpu in the remote west of northern Rakhine State’s Rathedaung Township.

Telenor eyes 5G opportunities in Myanmar The Nation 31st May 2019
Sharad Mehrotra, chief executive of Telenor Myanmar, said at a briefing on Wednesday that Myanmar has more than enough capacity with the telco’s modern 4G network, and that Telenor always tries to bring the latest technology to the country. “When the technology is mature and fully tested, we will look at business opportunities for 5G in Myanmar,” he said. “As a company in Telenor Group having already initiated pilots in countries like Norway, Denmark and Malaysia, we have access to the latest knowledge and experience from 5G.”

Telecoms to use Unicode system from Oct 1 Eleven News 14th Jun 2019
Telecommunication providers in Myanmar will use Unicode system from October 1, said Dr Tun Thura Thet, Vice Chairman of Myanmar Computer Federation. They will conduct a trial test for Unicode system in handsets in August and September, he said. Telecoms play major role to change into Unicode system in handsets as Myanmar Unicode system will be used in messages sent by telecommunication providers, emergency phone calling system, SIM card registration and Facebook pages, he added.

Telenor Wins Bid for USF Pilot Project in Ann Township Myanmar Business Today 11th Jun 2019
Telenor Myanmar is pleased to announce that it has been awarded the tender to implement the Universal Service Fund (USF) pilot project in Ann Township, Rakhine State. The Post and Telecommunications Department (PTD), under the Ministry of Transport and Communications, officially announced last week that Telenor Myanmar was one of the two winners of the tender for this World Bank-funded pilot project, and that it won the bid for Lot 4, Ann Township.

Wakayama temple introduces cashless payment option Eleven Media Group Co., Ltd 9th Jun 2019
Kokawadera temple — No. 3 on the 33-temple Saigoku Kannon Pilgrimage route, spanning the Kinki region and Gifu Prefecture — introduced the system in response to the growing popularity of cashless payment services among young people and foreign tourists.Visitors simply scan QR codes displayed on offertory boxes and choose the amount of money they want to give.

Ooredoo Prepared, Seeks Approval to Bring 5G to Myanmar Myanmar Business Today 30th May 2019
Ooredoo Myanmar has announced that once it gets approval and licenses from the government, it will build and provide 5G services here. To do this, it announced a partnership with ZTE Corporation, as it signed a Memorandum of Understanding [MoU] to collaborate on 5G development in this country. The two companies will jointly test the new 5G network in some townships of Yangon and Mandalay, and then hope to expand the 5G service across the country.

Opportunities emerge as fixed broadband market heats up The Myanmar Times 30th May 2019
As subscription numbers soar in Myanmar, internet users are demanding faster connection speeds to support greater volumes of content, such as high-quality videos and live streaming. That opens up opportunities for ISPs, particularly in fixed broadband, U Thein Than Toe said. “Internet subscription prices are falling. For example, the installation charge was nearly K300,000 in the past, but now there is no installation charge and we offer users cheap prices via promotions,” he said. 

Infrastructure

Yangon Govt Drops $10 Million Spending Proposals The Irrawaddy 18th Jun 2019
The Yangon regional government has withdrawn its planned spending of 16 billion kyats (US$10.45 million) for construction projects and the purchase of a ferry for an Andaman Sea island after a heated debate between lawmakers and the Yangon government. Yangon Region Planning and Finance Minister U Myint Thaung on Tuesday asked the parliament to approve the regional government’s removal of proposals for the construction of a new police headquarters and courthouse, and the purchase of a ship to shuttle between Yangon and Coco Island in the Andaman Sea from its 2019-2020 proposed budget.

Bangladesh-China-India-Myanmar-Economic corridor project not abandoned, says China ThePrint 10th Jun 2019
China on Monday denied that it has dropped the BCIM economic corridor from its multi-billion dollar Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) as the project made little progress in view of the differences between India and China over the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). The Bangladesh-China-India-Myanmar-Economic Corridor (BCIM) which has been previously mentioned as part of the BRI when it was launched in 2013, did not figure in the list of 35 corridors mentioned during the 2nd Belt and Road Forum (BRF) held here in April. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman, Geng Shuang told media briefing here on Monday that the BCIM has not been abandoned. It is very much on board.”

Myanmar's parliament approves signing as observer in BRI-related mechanism - China.org.cn Xinhua 9th Jun 2019
Myanmar's Union Parliament has approved a proposal for the country's signing as an observer in the memorandum of understanding (MoU) on the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) tax administration cooperation mechanism. The approval was made at Friday's session of the parliament following a debate on the proposal for the signing. Parliament member Dr. Khun Win Thaung hoped that Myanmar's participation in the mechanism can promote the tax management capacity of the country through working together with other countries included in the project.

Three locations identified for China-Myanmar Economic Corridor The Myanmar Times 7th Jun 2019
U Khin Maung Lwin, deputy secretary of the Ministry of Commerce, told the Myanmar Times that the country’s central committee for the Border Economic Cooperation Zone (BECZ), which met recently, decided on the areas for the core zones at Muse and Chin Shwe Haw in the northern part of Shan State and Kan Pite Tee in Kachin State. He said the ministry would initiate a call for applications for expressions of interest (EOI) soon, adding that for the agreed upon Muse core zone, an export product manufacturing processing and warehouse area would be located at Panghsang (KyuKoke)-Wantain-Nwan Yin (Kyin San Kyawt)-Mantman (Shweli) while an import processing and warehouse area would be located at Salant (Manhiro)-Salin and Namkhang-Naungtaung. 

Yangon, Mandalay vie for best-city status The Myanmar Times 4th Jun 2019
Shwedagon Pagoda may take the spotlight in advertising campaigns, but Mandalay has King Mindon’s Palace, the U Bein Bridge and the popular holiday destination Pyin Oo Lwin is just a few hours away. Then again Yangon’s population supports more shopping centers, despite having poorer roads and dirtier streets than its northern counterpart. Tourism, shopping and sanitation aside, debates about cultural differences between the two cities date way back before the days of Facebook and Instant Messenger.  Arguments about literary styles and language have been featured in magazines and newspapers in days gone by.

Myanmar to implement sky train project in Yangon, calls public cooperation - Xinhua | English.news.cn Xinhua 3rd Jun 2019
Myanmar's Yangon regional government is planning to implement a sky train project in Yangon, calling on public cooperation to ensure the accomplishment in a legal format, according to the Ministry of Transport and Communications Monday. The project, called the Yangon Urban Mass Rapid Transit, was on Sunday made public in Hlaingthaya township, an area with a large nomadic population with high density. As the first phase connecting the eastern and western parts of Yangon, the 18-km-long sky train project will start from Hlaingthaya Station along the Yangon-Pathein road, cross over Hlaing River, run along the north of Bayinnaung Bridge and stop at Parami Station.

Initial technical report on Muse-Mandalay railway project submitted The Myanmar Times 30th May 2019
China Railway Eryuan Engineering Co (CREEC) submitted the report, which is based on a ground survey along Muse-Mandalay highway road and which includes results from a soil analysis test as well as suggested routes, said U Htaung Shan Khan, general manager of Administration and Planning for Myanma Railways. China-backed CREEC conducted ground survey works in the last week of December, 2018. The technical report was carried out during the first four months of the year. Officials of CREEC and Myanma Railways inspected the ground along proposed routes for the Muse-Mandalay railway project. They also held public meetings with the authorities, residents and township’s elders of Kyaukme, Lashio and Muse, where the railway might pass through. However, the report will be complete only when an environmental impact assessment, social impact assessment and the project’s commercial and financial viability are conducted. 

Too little, too late for the US around the Mekong? China’s already there South China Morning Post 16th Jun 2019
US officials say Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will “recommit” the United States to supporting the five countries along Southeast Asia’s longest river, the Mekong, when he makes his first duty visit to Bangkok in July. Pompeo has voiced concern that China has tried to “steadily salami-slice its way to control” in the region. Mark Clark, acting deputy assistant secretary for Southeast Asia at the state department, said his boss planned to highlight what had been achieved in the past decade by the US-backed Lower Mekong Initiative (LMI). Pompeo will attend a ministerial meeting of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) and lead talks on the LMI, which was launched 10 years ago by his predecessor Hillary Clinton to boost cooperation between Washington and Cambodia, Vietnam, Thailand, Myanmar and Laos. But experts warn the American pledge might be too little, too late given China’s entrenched interests in the area. Brian Eyler, director of the Washington-based Stimson Centre’s Southeast Asia programme, said the US had promoted its foreign policy goals in the region largely behind the scenes, despite a push by Mekong nations for “real and tangible” pacts with the US. Beijing has set aside more than US$22 billion under the initiative to support projects ranging from technological connectivity and industrial development to trade, agriculture and poverty alleviation. The Mekong is an essential venue for much of the grand infrastructure envisioned by President Xi Jinping under his ambitious strategy to boost global trade and connectivity with the Belt and Road Initiative. A five-year action plan issued last year said the LMC should work in synergy with the belt and road plan.

Bus service to Mandalay from Imphal to start soon | Imphal News - Times of India The Times of India 12th Jun 2019
Manipur chief minister N Biren Singh on Tuesday said the formalities for starting a bus service between Imphal and Mandalay, the second largest city of neighbouring Myanmar, are at the final stages. Efforts are also on to extend rail and air link from the north eastern state of Manipur to Myanmar, Singh said at a conference on Act East Policy in which delegates of the neighbouring country were also present.

Gov’t Spells Out Conditions for Signing BRI Deals with China The Irrawaddy 30th May 2019
A senior Myanmar official revealed that the government has drawn up a set of conditions for signing memorandums of understanding (MOUs) related to Beijing’s grand infrastructure projects in the country in order to avoid falling into a “debt trap” with China and to ensure the projects benefit both countries. The conditions include acquiring international financing and opening the tender process to non-Chinese companies. It is the first time a government official has spoken about this issue since September, when Myanmar signed an MOU with China agreeing to establish the China-Myanmar Economic Corridor (CMEC) as part of Beijing’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).

Manufacturing

Myanmar Manufacturing Sector Accelerates In May – Nikkei ForexTV 3rd Jun 2019
The manufacturing sector in Myanmar continued to contract in May, and at a faster rate, the latest survey from Nikkei revealed on Monday with a manufacturing PMI score of 54.2. That’s up from 53.7 in April, and it moves farther above the boom-or-bust line of 50 that separates expansion from contraction. Individually, operating conditions improved at a solid rate, while there was faster growth in output and new orders. Employment expansion was the quickest in series history.

Auto Industry's "Last Frontier" | -JAPAN News NHK WORLD 3rd Jun 2019
Myanmar, with its 50-million-strong population, is often referred to as Asia's last frontier economy. The implied potential for exponential growth has global companies, including Japanese automakers, pouring in. A report by the Automotive Association of Myanmar says a record 17,500 new cars were sold in the country in 2018, a two-fold increase for the second year in a row. Consumer demand for new cars has grown rapidly since restrictions were tightened on used vehicle imports in 2017. Six big auto manufacturers from Japan, the US, China and other countries attended Myanmar's first International Motor Show in January.

Nissin Electric shifting production to Myanmar from Thailand, Vietnam Bangkok Post 31st May 2019
Metal parts and equipment maker Nissin Electric Co of Japan will build a plant in Myanmar, relocating some production processes from its factories in Thailand and Vietnam to cut labour costs in its contract manufacturing business. The company said early this week it will form a joint venture with Hosoda Holdings Co, a Japanese trader acting as Nissin's sales agent for the Myanmar market, in the Thilawa Special Economic Zone on the outskirts of Yangon in June, with plant operations scheduled to start in March 2020. The local arm, tentatively named Nissin Electric Myanmar Co, plans to make electrical equipment and take on contract manufacturing of such machines and parts, it said in a statement.

Travel & Tourism

Tourism Ministry Orders Industry Dedollarization The Irrawaddy 17th Jun 2019
For the second time, the Ministry of Hotels and Tourism (MOHT) has ordered business owners in the Myanmar tourism industry to stop collecting payments in the form of U.S. dollars. If companies want to continue accepting U.S. dollars, a letter sent by the MOHT to the Myanmar Tourism Federation (MTF) said, they must apply to become an authorized dealer (AD) with a money changing license from the Central Bank. The letter was signed by MTF General Secretary U Kyi Thein Ko and sent to the MTF’s 11 affiliate organizations last Thursday. Its authenticity was confirmed to The Irrawaddy on Friday by a tourism ministry official.

Two tourism zones to be set up in Mandalay The Myanmar Times 12th Jun 2019
Kuthodaw Pagoda and Mandalay Hill will be designated as historical sites, and Inwa ancient city in Tada-U township will be designated an architectural attraction. Acceptance of bids for the project will begin at the end of this month, and the duration of the contract will be five years. “Depending on how much they can offer, we will grant a contract. For example, they have to improve infrastructure like roads and basic amenities like sanitation facilities. After five years, if visitors are satisfied with their services, we will extend the contract.

Govt relaxes visa restrictions for Europe, urged to regulate ‘zero-dollar tours’ The Myanmar Times 6th Jun 2019
Under a new Look West Policy, The Myanmar Times understands that tourists from Germany, Italy, Australia, Russia, Switzerland and Spain will be able to apply for visas on arrival at US$50 per visa and be permitted to remain in Myanmar for a period of 30 days. The term of the visas cannot be extended. However, the ministry has yet to issue an official announcement on the development, said U Khin Maung Soe, director of the Department of Information and Local and International Relations.  U Thet Lwin Toe, chair of the Myanmar Tourism Entrepreneurs Association reaffirmed that the move is close to being finalised. “We will announce the new development as soon as the announcement is made by the ministry,” he said. 

Myanmar airline rated 7-star for safety The Myanmar Times 18th Jun 2019
Myanmar Airways International (MAI) has been awarded 7-star safety rating from AirlineRatings.com, the only safety and product rating agency in the world. MAI is the first and only recipient of the IATA Operational Safety Audit Program (IOSA) in Myanmar and has been able to maintain a 100 percent safety record since it was awarded the air operator’s certificate in 1993. AirlineRatings.com Editor-in-Chief Geoffrey Thomas congratulated MAI (IATA code 8M) on this achievement. “MAI has been a major part of the economic life of Myanmar,” said Thomas. “This is an excellent outcome and will help promote tourism to Myanmar.”

Ministry reminds tourism operators to transact in kyat The Myanmar Times 18th Jun 2019
The Ministry of Hotels and Tourism (MOHT) has issued a reminder to the airline and tourism industry to transact in the local Myanmar currency and apply for a local money changer license. “The Central Bank will cooperate with the industry to avoid difficulties arising in the process of applying for the license, said Daw Khin Than Win, Deputy Director General of the MOHT. U Phyo Wai, a local tour operator, commented that there should be more flexibility in the use of foreign exchange to transact, saying that tourists prefer to use dollars or other currencies over the Myanmar kyat to transact.

Myanmar tackles zero-dollar trap TTR Weekly 14th Jun 2019
So-called zero-dollar tourism is starting to upset the travel industry in Myanmar. While local tour operators and to some extent hotel owners welcome the increase in Chinese tour groups they wonder why the financial benefits slip through their fingers. Myanmar Times in a report, earlier this week, claims Chinese nationals are now controlling the entire travel process from bookings, flights, hotels and tour arrangements. Funds stay offshore while the industry recognises the zero-dollar tour model that once plagued Thailand has arrived in Myanmar. Myanmar Times refers to the Thai government’s successful crackdown of zero-dollar tours. It was a costly campaign that cut into the travel arrivals and for a year and local tour operators feared the business would not return.

Promoting coordinated and sustainable tourism in the Chinese market to Myanmar Ministry of Hotels & Tourism Myanmar 10th Jun 2019
A special meeting was held in Nay Pyi Tawrecently to discuss and plan the details of a coordinated and sustainable approach to the ChineseMarket. The immense and recent growth in this market needs to be carefully managed for all the parties concerned, including the people of Myanmar. The Union Minister spoke about the development of the tourism industry in Myanmar and the priority of attracting more tourists. Making doing business easier and urging those working in the tourism field to conduct their business in a cooperative and systematic way so as to benefit all those involved. .

Myanmar grants visa-on-arrival to 6 more countries to boost tourism Xinhua 2nd Jun 2019
Myanmar will grant visa-on-arrival to six more countries beginning Oct. 1 as a relaxation of restriction on entry into the country to boost tourism, according to a statement of the Ministry of Hotels and Tourism. The six countries are Italy, Spain, Germany, Russia, Switzerland and Australia. Visitors from these countries will be allowed to enter through three international airports -- Yangon, Mandalay and Nay Pyi Taw as well as some designated border gates by paying 50 U.S. dollars as visa fee, said the statement released late Saturday. The timely grant of such visa is expected to draw more visitors from Europe in the open season starting October when tourist arrivals used to grow by that time.