Myanmar Update: December 19, 2019

Myanmar Update | December 19, 2019
Authors: Jack Myint and Taylor Dumaine
 
LOOKING AHEAD
 
 

January 14-16: 2020 Business Mission to the ASEAN Tourism Ministers Meeting

 
THE COUNCIL'S TAKE
 
 

United States Imposes Sanctions Against Senior Commanders in the Myanmar Military

On December 10, the U.S. Treasury Department announced sanctions on senior Myanmar Military (Tatmadaw) officials in response to claims of human rights abuses and crimes against humanity perpetrated in Northern Rakhine State. Tatmadaw Commander in Chief Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, his deputy, and two commanders deployed to command Rakhine State operations are now subject to sanctions. The sanctions coincide with the first day of hearings at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) where State Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi defended the country against claims of genocide.

The U.S. Treasury Department cited “serious human rights abuse[s]” as a justification for the new sanctions. Sanctions were implemented under the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act (Magnitsky Act), which authorizes the United States government to impose sanctions on individuals the United States sees as human rights offenders. The new sanctions freeze assets of those listed in the United States and bans U.S. citizens from conducting business with them. The four generals subject to the sanctions were previously barred from entering the country under the same act back in July of this year.

This week’s announcement is a part of the Treasury Department’s broader International Human Rights Day announcement, which includes sanctions for 18 individuals across six countries. The sanctions against Myanmar target individuals and not military-owned or operated enterprises. This indicates an intent to continue engaging Myanmar to support inclusive economic growth, investment, and democratic transition, while promoting international trade and investment to reduce the power of military-owned enterprises and helping to grow the economy.

New Legislation Could Require Additional Layer of Government Approval for Businesses

Myanmar’s Ministry of Commerce is currently revising a draft trade bill that would impose an additional layer of government approval and enable individual ministries to set regulatory barriers across broad areas of the economy. Both foreign and local businesses have expressed concerns over the lack of clarity, the potential addition of red tape, and the increase of corruption risk and protectionism in Myanmar’s already difficult business environment.

If approved in its current form, the trade bill would establish a Trade Development Commission chaired by one of the country’s Vice Presidents and that would include union ministers as members. Along with the Ministry of Commerce, the Trade Development Commission would be given the authority to set lists of restricted items and non-tariff regulations, as well as regulate the e-commerce industry. Essentially, a new level of permits and regulations will be added to every business sector in Myanmar if the draft trade bill were to become law.

According to the bill’s draft text, as obtained by the Myanmar Times, the bill would authorize the government to “apply price control measures to any products determined by the government under the pretext of ensuring a proper balance between the public interest and business interests”. No clear direction or mechanism has been outlined for how the price control measures or products covered by the measures would be determined. In addition, these steps potentially could open the door for the Ministry of Commerce to set a list of trade-related restricted items or prohibited items, closing off certain retail and wholesale sectors from foreign participation.

The proposed legislation would also require companies to apply for a trade registration certificate to carry out trading activities. Individual ministries will publish the lists of businesses that need to apply for the certificate, with added regulations for individual traders. The penalty for failing to have a required certificate is a fine or imprisonment of up to three years, as well as confiscation of business assets. Traders, distributors, and foreign services firms in Myanmar are all likely to fall within the scope of this law as “trade in services”. The Ministry of Commerce then “shall make decisions on permitting, limiting and restricting the activities of those services business by cooperating with other relevant ministries.”

USABC will continue to closely monitor developments on this legislation and keep members apprised. Additionally, USABC has reached out to the Ministry of Commerce to offer members’ input on the draft legislation.

Myanmar Liberalizes Insurance Sector; Challenges Remain

On November 28, Myanmar’s Ministry of Planning and Finance (MoPF) officially allowed five foreign life insurers to operate in the local market as 100 percent wholly owned subsidiaries. In April 2019, these companies were given provisional licenses as “preferred applicants,” and MoPF placed a temporary hold on their commercial operations. Those that have been allowed to operate include the UK’s Prudential, Japan’s Dai-ichi Life, Hong Kong’s AIA, the United States’ Chubb, and Canada’s Manulife, making them the first foreign insurance providers to operate in Myanmar without local joint venture partners. Additionally, MoPF also approved a number of local-foreign joint ventures, with six life and non-life insurance licenses going to Japan’s Mitsui Sumitomo Insurance, Taiyo Life, and Nippon Life.

The November 28 announcement marks a significant step in the right direction for Myanmar’s financial sector liberalization efforts. It also signals that one of the world’s last untapped insurance markets is now open for business. According to statistics from Myanmar’s State-owned Myanma Insurance (MI), less than 0.1 percent of Myanmar’s approximately 60 million people hold life insurance policies, making Myanmar’s insurance penetration rate lower than any other country in the ASEAN region. This has primarily been because, over the past six decades, the sector has been heavily protected and monopolized by MI, with all foreign insurers barred from doing direct business across the country, except within a few Special Economic Zones.

Even with this opening of the local life insurance market, business community concerns remain that the Myanmar Government may seek to give MI a significant market advantage. A draft “Insurance Business Bill,” which would exempt key provisions such as licensing and corporate governance in the insurance sector from The Myanmar Competition Law of 2015, has recently been circulated. A consequence of this bill would be to protect MI from regulatory scrutiny of the newly established Competition Authority. Instead, the bill proposes that the insurance sector be regulated by the Insurance Business Regulatory Board and the Financial Regulatory Department, which acts as the secretariat of the board. The draft Bill is expected to pass sometime in 2020, though the exact timeline remains unclear. The Council will continue to closely monitor legislative developments on this topic and keep members apprised.

Government Commits to Meeting Myanmar’s Electricity Demand

On November 15, the Ministry of Electricity and Energy (MOEE) announced that it hopes to expand electricity access to 50 percent of the population by the end of the year, an increase of from the current 47 percent who currently have access to electricity.

Myanmar’s electricity demand is growing across the country and is estimated to reach 8.6 gigawatts (GW) in 2025 and 12.6 GW in 2030. Currently, the government is only able to produce 3.6 GW and will need approximately US$2 billion of investment per year to meet the country’s growing power demand. MOEE Deputy Minister U Khin Maung Win believes that the country will be able to increase production to 4.6 GW in 2020, especially with the implementation of seven power projects. Currently reliant on hydropower, Myanmar is looking to diversify its electricity sources with investments in liquid natural gas (LNG), gas turbine power stations, and combined cycle plants.

Myanmar will continue to need investment in its energy sector in order to meet growing commercial demand. The Council has always been a key supporter of Myanmar’s efforts to reach its electrification goals and continues to encourage the Myanmar Government to support mutually beneficial business-friendly policies that will encourage more U.S. investment in the country’s power sector, as well as increased inclusion of private sector input in key electricity and energy legislation.

 
IN THIS UPDATE
 
 
Regional Affairs
Myanmar Genocide Lawsuit Is Filed at United Nations Court

National Affairs
New Yangon City: A controversial blueprint
‘We merged and we won’ - ethnic parties set aside differences to claw back seats from NLD
Myanmar Parliament Will Vote on Charter Change Before Election, Speaker Vows
Karen groups hail ICJ, ICC cases against Myanmar
New Kachin party set to elect leaders in preparation for Myanmar polls
UWSA, NDAA Support State Counselor’s Defense of Myanmar at ICJ
Myanmar Workers to Push for Higher Minimum Wage
Two Myanmar Military Officers Join Int’l Criminal Justice Unit for ICJ Defense
Parliament approves merger of industry, finance ministries
Aung San Suu Kyi to Lead Myanmar Team to Fight Genocide Accusation
Youth vote still up for grabs in 2020
Myanmar Govt to Combine Two Key Economic Ministries
No deal: NLD prepares to go it alone in 2020
2 top US officials to visit Rohingya camps
State Counsellor responds to the remarks made by the UN Secretary General on Rakhine issue – Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Defense & Security
Myanmar Military Returns Base Near Thai Border to Mon National Liberation Army
Minister: Army chief to open new line of negotiation during Myanmar visit
Speedy reforms in security sector urged
Myanmar’s naval vessel visits Vietnam

Economics
Myanmar youth benefit from CITIC Consortium training program
Poverty in Myanmar is on decline - Union Minister
Talks on Myanmar minimum wage begins
Myanmar parliament approves joining treaty on abolition of child labour
Kayin govt accuses business conglomerate of developing land without permission
Myanmar’s interventionist trade bill alarms business
Singapore businesses see Myanmar as ‘potential gold mine’
Thai businesses considering moving to Myanmar - DICA
Philippine Billionaire Ayala Doubles Down On Myanmar Through Yoma Strategic

Energy
Hong Kong to invest 500 million dollars in two LNG power stations
Country’s largest mini-grid unveiled in Magway
Four hydropower projects to continue implementation in 2019-2020 FY
Solar power plant opens in Lema, Magway
E& E Ministry receives DCS computerized control systems, instruments
Govt Promises to Meet Myanmar’s Rising Electricity Demand
Deal signed to purchase power from Kyaukphyu power plant project
Electricity Reform to Light Up Myanmar’s Economy
Three new substations boost national grid
Electricity rate hike is good for economy
Wärtsilä awarded 40MW equipment supply contract for power plant in Myanmar
Hitachi SEM to provide Myanmar with 5,600 transformers
Ayala Corp to invest $238m in companies controlled by Myanmar tycoon
Govt to launch second stage of electrification plan

Financial Services
11 insurance companies get the nod
Can Myanmar’s state-owned banks turn challenges into opportunities?
Myanmar awards insurance licences to five foreign providers, six joint ventures
Land bank to go online
Institutional investors launch association in Myanmar
Better bank services, enforcement needed for remittance licences to work
Official remittance licences now available for migrant workers

Food & Agriculture
Mon State throws open doors for investors in six sectors
Firms use technology to optimise agriculture yields in Shan
Value chain finance could improve agricultural productivity: economists
Myanmar urges ASEAN cooperation in rural development

Health & Life Sciences
State Counsellor addresses Medical Skill, Simulation and Research Center opening ceremony in Yangon
Medical research training centre to open in Mandalay
Call to ease restrictions on Myanmar-origin doctors with permanent resident status
Officials raise alarm over drug resistance
Yangon plans measles-rubella vaccination campaign

ICT
Japanese companies to upgrade telecommunications infrastructure
Ooredoo Said to Weigh Reducing Stake in $4 Billion Myanmar Unit
Why women are driving Myanmar’s IT sector growth
Local e-commerce firms call on govt to ease regulations

Infrastructure
ADB approves $195 million financing package for development
Myanmar builds airport in mountainous northwestern state
Yangon Amata Smart and Eco City project to be implemented
Chinese Mega-Project in Myanmar’s Kayin State Sparks Resentment And Worry
Trade war could be ‘silver lining’ for Myanmar

Manufacturing
Myanmar expects factory investment to jump on US-China trade tension

Travel & Tourism
Thai Investors Look to Bring Mass Tourism to Myanmar’s Myeik Archipelago
High-end eco beach resort project proposed in Gwa, Rakhine
Tourist numbers to Myanmar rise
 
ARTICLE CLIPS
 
 
Regional Affairs

Myanmar Genocide Lawsuit Is Filed at United Nations Court The New York Times 11th Nov 2019
An arsenal of international laws has failed to confront the impunity of Myanmar’s government and security forces for their deadly purge of the country’s Rohingya Muslim minority, forcing hundreds of thousands to flee a campaign of rape, arson and killing. But on Monday, Gambia filed a lawsuit accusing Myanmar of genocide, summoning the case before the United Nations’ highest court in an effort to open a legal path against the country’s authorities. In the suit, filed at the International Court of Justice in The Hague, Gambia requested that the court condemn Myanmar for violating the Genocide Convention with its campaign of ethnic cleansing.

National Affairs

New Yangon City: A controversial blueprint China Dialogue 5th Dec 2019
It’s summer and Yangon is scorching hot. The hotel air-conditioning shuts down as it does several times a day due to electricity shortages. Shops and apartment buildings fire up growling diesel generators whose fumes mix poisonously with the exhaust of the second-hand Japanese cars streaming past. I’m waiting for a ferry at Pansodan pier in the south of the city. Behind me is Yangon’s “Bund”, a row of colonial-era commercial and administrative buildings. In front is the Yangon river, whose waters flow gently, if a little murkily. On the other bank I can see the township of Dala. The view is flat and rural, a stark contrast to Yangon’s bustling cityscape. Reaching Dala, I take a motorbike westwards, crossing the Twante canal via a steel bridge with an unpaved surface that makes the wheels skid. Farmers are transplanting rice in plots either side of the road. It’s countryside the whole way.

‘We merged and we won’ - ethnic parties set aside differences to claw back seats from NLD Myanmar Now 5th Dec 2019
Across Myanmar’s border states, smaller ethnic parties have been merging into larger groups in an attempt to oust the ruling National League for Democracy (NLD) from local and national seats in the 2020 general election. Ethnic parties learned a lesson in 2015 when they fought against each other for seats and split the vote against the NLD several ways, helping the dominant party secure a landslide victory and trounce candidates in border areas. In the 2010 election, held under the military regime, ethnic political parties won 180 seats; in 2015, they won 140.

Myanmar Parliament Will Vote on Charter Change Before Election, Speaker Vows The Irrawaddy 4th Dec 2019
Myanmar Union Parliament Speaker U T Khun Myat said the Parliament will finish the process of drafting and voting on constitutional reform bills during its current term, in response to doubts raised by military and Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) lawmakers over the process. The current Parliament, dominated by the National League for Democracy (NLD), convened on Feb. 1, 2016 and will end in early 2021. “Some lawmakers are concerned about whether [the constitutional reform process] can be completed during the term of the Parliament. [I] accepted the proposal [to form the Charter Amendment Committee] because I am sure the tasks of the committee can be completed during this term,” U T Khun Myat told lawmakers.

Karen groups hail ICJ, ICC cases against Myanmar The Myanmar Times 3rd Dec 2019
Forty-eight groups under the Worldwide Karen Community organisation said “Karen people stand with those suffered from systematic human rights violation by the Tatmadaw (military).” “These cases... send a clear signal to Burma Army leadership that the net of justice is closing in and their days of impunity - for crimes against all ethnic peoples in Burma - are numbered,” the statement said. The Karen ethnic group makes up about 7 percent of the total Myanmar population, with approximately five million people. Most of them reside in Kayin State as well as in southern and southeastern parts of the country.

New Kachin party set to elect leaders in preparation for Myanmar polls The Myanmar Times 3rd Dec 2019
The Kachin State People's Party (KSPP) gears up for its first conference in January to elect members of the central executive committee in preparation for the general election to be held later next year, a senior party official said. The party is a merger of three separate political parties – the Kachin Democratic Party, the Kachin State Democracy Party, and the Unity and Democracy Party of Kachin State – in a bid to strengthen the chances of winning in the elections. Manam Tu Ja, KSPP chairperson, said the January meeting will also see the launch of the party’s policies and programmes. "We have arranged the conference in January,” he said. “We will choose the new leaders through an election and we will launch the party's policy."

UWSA, NDAA Support State Counselor’s Defense of Myanmar at ICJ The Irrawaddy 2nd Dec 2019
Two ethnic armed groups with strong militaries—the United Wa State Army (UWSA) and the National Democratic Alliance Army (NDAA)—have both said they welcome the Myanmar government’s move to defend itself against charges of alleged genocide against the Rohingya in 2017 at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague. “We welcome [the government’s] courage, embracing responsibility and accountability by going to defend itself instead of issuing denials,” said UWSA liaison officer U Nyi Rang. “The truth cannot be hidden. The court will decide whether there are genocidal crimes or not. We do not support any circumstances which could cause more confusion.” State Counselor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi is preparing to travel to the UN’s court in The Hague to lead Myanmar’s legal defense team against a lawsuit filed by The Gambia accusing Myanmar of genocide. The Gambia filed the suit on behalf of the Organization for Islamic Cooperation (OIC) on Nov. 11 and the ICJ will hold the first public hearings in the case on Dec. 10-12.

Myanmar Workers to Push for Higher Minimum Wage The Irrawaddy 29th Nov 2019
The Confederation of Trade Unions in Myanmar (CTUM) is bringing a proposal to raise the minimum wage from 4,800 kyats (US$3.19) to 7,200 kyats per day to the National Committee for the Minimum Wage. The CTUM recently conducted surveys in Yangon, Bago, Mandalay, Sagaing and Magwe regions and Shan, Kachin and Karen states, calculating the average costs families have to spend on food, housing, healthcare and education. The survey covered people working in manufacturing, construction, mining, logging, agriculture and cargo loading at ports. The proposed rate, equal to 900 kyats per hour for an eight-hour work day, is based on these surveys, according CTUM central committee member U Win Zaw.

Two Myanmar Military Officers Join Int’l Criminal Justice Unit for ICJ Defense The Irrawaddy 27th Nov 2019
Two military officers are among the members of the Myanmar government’s Special Unit on International Criminal Justice formed by the Ministry of the Office of the State Counselor on Tuesday.  The move comes as State Counselor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi prepares to travel to the UN’s International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague to lead Myanmar’s legal defense team in contesting a genocide case brought against the country over military operations in Rakhine State that caused more than 700,000 Rohingya to flee to Bangladesh. According to the ministry’s statement dated Nov. 26, the Special Unit was formed “in order to strengthen internal capacity and expertise, and provide legal opinions to relevant ministries on issues related to international criminal law.” 

Parliament approves merger of industry, finance ministries The Myanmar Times 27th Nov 2019
The Pyidaungsu Hluttaw (Assembly of the Union) on Tuesday approved a proposal by President U Win Myint to merge the industry and finance ministries despite the concerns of some legislators. The merger was approved by a vote of 349 to 222. U Soe Win, who heads both ministries, welcomed the decision by the assembly, saying it would further boost efficiency in managing state-owned factories. He said a single ministry can better manage the workshops and factories under the Ministry of Industry to aid economic growth and create jobs.

Aung San Suu Kyi to Lead Myanmar Team to Fight Genocide Accusation The New York Times 20th Nov 2019
Myanmar’s government announced on Wednesday that its leader, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, will head a legal team it will send to the International Court of Justice in the Netherlands to contest a case of genocide filed against it. The announcement was posted on the Facebook page of the office of the state counselor, a position Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi holds along with that of foreign minister. Myanmar’s government releases much public information on Facebook. The country’s military has been accused of carrying out mass rapes, killings and the torching of homes during a counterinsurgency campaign launched in western Myanmar in August 2017 after rebel attacks. The violence sent more than 700,000 members of the Muslim Rohingya minority fleeing to neighboring Bangladesh. Myanmar’s population is overwhelmingly Buddhist. The case was filed by Gambia on behalf of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation. When filing the case, Gambia’s justice minister and attorney general, Abubacarr Marie Tambadou, told The Associated Press he wanted to “send a clear message to Myanmar and to the rest of the international community that the world must not stand by and do nothing in the face of terrible atrocities that are occurring around us. It is a shame for our generation that we do nothing while genocide is unfolding right before our own eyes.” The head of a U.N. fact-finding mission on Myanmar warned last month that “there is a serious risk of genocide recurring,” and the mission also said in its final report in September that Myanmar should be held responsible in international legal forums for alleged genocide against the Rohingya. Myanmar has strongly denied carrying out organized human rights abuses. The brief announcement on Wednesday night on the effort “to defend Myanmar’s national interest” did not specify that Gambia’s application to the court involved genocide, but said it was “with regard to the displaced persons from the Rakhine state,” the area from which the Rohingya fled.

Youth vote still up for grabs in 2020 The Myanmar Times 14th Nov 2019
Unlike Myanmar youngsters in previous generations, today’s youths are somewhat more reserved about their political opinions. Take the case of Ma Thinzar Oo, a third-year student at Dagon University. Asked if she knew about the elections next year, she said she did not. Asked if she would vote in 2020, she answered “yes”. “Although I’m not interested in politics, I’ll vote because it will be my first time. I admired voters long before I reached voting age,” she said.

Myanmar Govt to Combine Two Key Economic Ministries The Irrawaddy 14th Nov 2019
The Myanmar government plans to combine the positions of Minister of Industry and Minister of Planning and Finance into a single position, according to the Union Parliament agenda for Friday. According to the agenda, a Union-level representative from the government will explain the plan to parliamentary lawmakers in order to seek their approval. According to a proposal by President U Win Myint, the two ministries will be merged entirely and named the Planning, Finance and Industry Ministry, if lawmakers endorse the plan.

No deal: NLD prepares to go it alone in 2020 Frontier Myanmar 14th Nov 2019
THE BATTLE for the ethnic minority vote in next year’s general election is heating up. Prospects for an alliance between the National League for Democracy and ethnic parties already appear slim. In a first step towards wooing ethnic voters, the NLD established an ethnic affairs committee at a meeting of its central committee on September 21 and 22. NLD vice chairman Dr Zaw Myint Maung told a news conference after the meeting that the party needed to have a strategic plan to compete against ethnic parties next year.

2 top US officials to visit Rohingya camps New Age 14th Nov 2019
Two senior US officials would visit Rohingya camps in Cox’s Bazar on Wednesday to observe the conditions of Rohingyas and local host community were facing since the forced displacement of Rohingya people from Myanmar two years ago. Alice Wells, acting assistant secretary for south and central Asia at the US Department of State, and Bonnie Glick, deputy administrator of the US Agency for International Development, were scheduled to reach Dhaka on Tuesday on a three-day official tour.

State Counsellor responds to the remarks made by the UN Secretary General on Rakhine issue – Ministry of Foreign Affairs Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Myanmar 14th Nov 2019
State Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi responded to the remarks made by UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres regarding the Rakhine issue. She underscored that Myanmar will not shirk its responsibility to take care of the rights and security of all those whom it must protect.

ASEAN

How SAP is supporting ASEAN’s digital economy ComputerWeekly.com 14th Nov 2019
Training the workforce of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) to be future-ready requires governments, businesses and educators to co-invest in education and skills. However, individuals must also want to embrace the digital revolution and be ready to capitalise on it, according to SAP Southeast Asia’s head of corporate affairs, Eugene Ho. Citing a Deloitte survey which found that only 20% of youths felt this was their responsibility, Ho said that was wrong thinking, noting that “one can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink”.

Defense & Security

Myanmar Military Returns Base Near Thai Border to Mon National Liberation Army The Irrawaddy 3rd Dec 2019
The Myanmar Army has withdrawn its troops from a Mon National Liberation Army (MNLA) base in the Three Pagodas Pass on the border between Karen State and Thailand, but continues to occupy one of the group’s outposts in the area, according to local sources. “Their troops left our base last night,” Colonel Nai M-Seik Chan of the MNLA told The Irrawaddy on Tuesday. However, the Myanmar army (or Tatmadaw) continued to hold the outpost, he added. The Myanmar army seized the base from the MNLA in Palanjapan Village on Nov. 27 after fighting broke out between the MNLA and a joint force of Tatmadaw and Karen Border Guard Force troops.

Minister: Army chief to open new line of negotiation during Myanmar visit Dhaka Tribune 27th Nov 2019
The foreign minister on Wednesday said an upcoming visit of the Bangladesh Army chief to Myanmar will bring something good for Bangladesh and “open another line of negotiation” between the two countries over Rohingya repatriation. “We want to resolve it [Rohingya crisis] through discussions. I think it [the visit] will go in favour of us. It'll be good for us," Dr AK Abdul Momen told reporters at the state guesthouse Padma, reports UNB. Momen said Myanmar was not Bangladesh’s enemy but a friend and in Myanmar, their army plays a very significant role. Under the circumstances, he said, it will be good for Bangladesh if Army Chief of Staff Gen Aziz Ahmed goes there.

Speedy reforms in security sector urged The Myanmar Times 22nd Nov 2019
An international peace advocacy group hopes for speedier reforms in the Myanmar security forces, which have been slow in coming despite the transfer to civilian control of the General Administration Department, which used to be under the Home Affairs Ministry. London-based Safeworld, an international non-governmental organisation that focuses on conflict prevention and peace-building initiatives, underscored the need to push for more security reforms including developing the mandate of elected civilians, transforming the security culture, and protecting and building civic spaces.

Myanmar’s naval vessel visits Vietnam VietnamPlus 13th Nov 2019
UMS Moattama amphibious transport dock of the Myanmar Navy arrived at the Cam Ranh International Port of the south central coastal province of Khanh Hoa on November 12, starting a three-day visit to Vietnam. The vessel, carrying more than 100 officers and sailors led by Colonel Thei Htoo, is captained by Lieutenant Colonel Aung Myo Hlaing. During their stay, the crewmembers are scheduled to pay courtesy visits to leaders of Khanh Hoa province and Naval Region 4 High Command, and join friendly sport activities with officers and sailors of Naval Region 4. The visit aims to further strengthen the friendship, cooperation and mutual trust between Vietnam and Myanmar in general and the countries’ armed forces and navies in particular.

Economics

Myanmar youth benefit from CITIC Consortium training program Global Times 5th Dec 2019
A graduation ceremony was held over the weekend to mark the first successful youth training in Kyaukphyu, Rakhine State, Myanmar. The training was sponsored by CITIC Consortium and Southwest China's Yunnan Province and about 100 people attended the ceremony, including representatives from CITIC Consortium and education officials from the NLD, Myanmar's ruling party, as well as Myanmar Union Parliament Member U Nyi Nyi. The first phase of the training provided basic electrician courses and English language courses for 90 local young people over the last two months. All the trainees were selected by a management committee composed of local representatives under the principle of openness and transparency.

Poverty in Myanmar is on decline - Union Minister Mizzima Myanmar 5th Dec 2019
Myanmar Union Minister of Investment and Foreign Economic Relations U Thaung Tun called for clear and open discussions at the 2nd Development Effectiveness Roundtable which started in Nay Pyi Taw on Wednesday, Xinhua reported. U Thaung Tun, in his capacity as the vice chair of the Development Assistance Coordination Unit (DACU), stressed that the mobilization and coordination of a wide variety of sources of development finance are required to achieve the vision set forth within the Myanmar Sustainable Development Plan. He said that poverty in Myanmar is on the decline, access to education and life-saving medicines is on the rise, and a second wave of social and economic reforms is underway, while economic growth remains strong by both regional and global standards.

Talks on Myanmar minimum wage begins The Myanmar Times 5th Dec 2019
Representatives of labour, business and the government have begun discussion on the country’s minimum wage following a mandatory review of the rate every two years. The last daily minimum wage was set in May 2018 at K4800 (US$3.20). The tripartite meeting was held over the weekend to get a general idea about the cost of living of employees, said U Naung Aung, vice chair of Myanmar Industrial Craft and Services Trade Union Federation.

Myanmar parliament approves joining treaty on abolition of child labour The Myanmar Times 4th Dec 2019
The Pyidaungsu Hluttaw (Assembly of the Union) has approved the ratification of an international treaty that would pave the way for the abolition of child labour in the country, but some legislators doubt the government’s ability to implement effectively the agreement. The Minimum Age Convention (138) of the International Labour Organization (ILO), which includes the abolition of child labour, was approved on Tuesday. The convention has 18 articles and aims to effectively abolish child labour, support economic development, and provide job opportunities consistent with the fullest physical and mental development of young people, according to Labour, Immigration and Population Minister U Thein Swe. But undeveloped countries, including Myanmar, are allowed to lower the age limit to between 12 and 14-year-old.

Kayin govt accuses business conglomerate of developing land without permission The Myanmar Times 4th Dec 2019
The Kayin State government has called on the Myanmar government to take action against a major business conglomerate for developing land for a project in Thandaunggyi township without permission. U Nyi Tun, a member of the Nay Pyi Taw Council, who claimed to be speaking on behalf of the Kayin government, told the Amyotha Hluttaw (Upper House) on Monday that the 77 acres of land in Kywe Phyu Taung village tract is classified as farmland. “Permission to use the land for other purposes was not obtained, so the Kayin government asked the Union government to take action against the company under the farmland and forest laws,” he said. U Nyi Tun said the land was leased to U Khin Shwe, owner of Zaykabar Co Ltd, for 10 years in May 2016. He said the company built a market, rest hall, workers’ quarters, roads, a bridge and a wellness room without permission from development committees.

Myanmar’s interventionist trade bill alarms business The Myanmar Times 3rd Dec 2019
The lack of clarity and room for government intervention in the latest draft trade bill has alarmed the Yangon corporate community by introducing more bureaucracy and protectionism in an already difficult business environment. The bill also appears to be at loggerheads with reform measures led by other ministries.  “In my view, the drafters of this law have become confused between the idea of promoting trade, which is the object of this law, and the idea of regulating business, which gives government ministries extraordinary new powers to regulate all areas of business,” warns Ross Taylor, a lawyer with Tilleke & Gibbins.  “Thus the result of this draft is that it is totally opposed to the direction of recent government thinking and all recent government legislation, which has had the effect of a general and welcome liberalisation in trade and services.”

Singapore businesses see Myanmar as ‘potential gold mine’ The Myanmar Times 22nd Nov 2019
Myanmar is a “potential gold mine” and the “last frontier for” investors despite its low ranking in ease of doing business, said a Singaporean investor at a business to business matchmaking event in early November. MyanmarBizConnect Group, a local business matchmaking group, the Singapore’s Association of Small and Medium Enterprises (ASME) and Malaysia’s RHB Bank held the ASME Myanmar Mission Investor Insights event at a hotel in Yangon on November 7.

Thai businesses considering moving to Myanmar - DICA Mizzima Myanmar News and Insight 14th Nov 2019
While labour wages are rising in Thailand, some of its enterprises are discussing moving their businesses to Myanmar, according to U Thant Sin Lwin, Director-General of the Directorate of Investment and Company Administration (DICA), state media reported. “At present, Thailand investors are entering Myanmar as cheap labour wages are attracting them,” he said. “As labour wages in Thailand have risen, the kingdom’s business firms are considering moving their businesses to Myanmar,” U Thant Sin Lwin, was quoted as saying. The businesses are engaged in manufacturing LEDs, auto parts and accessories, among other things.

Philippine Billionaire Ayala Doubles Down On Myanmar Through Yoma Strategic Forbes 13th Nov 2019
Two of Southeast Asia’s most prominent business families have announced a new partnership. Philippines' oldest and largest conglomerate Ayala corporation has bought a 20% stake in Singapore-listed Yoma Strategic Holdings (YSH), and 20% of Yangon-listed First Myanmar Investment (FMI), both led by tycoon Serge Pun. The $238 million investment makes Ayala the second-largest shareholder in the group, according to YSH, and is the largest foreign direct investment made by a Philippine company into Myanmar.

Energy

Hong Kong to invest 500 million dollars in two LNG power stations Eleven Media Group Co., Ltd 5th Dec 2019
Hong Kong based CNTIC VPower YGI Limited is planning to invest over US$500 million to build a 400-megawatt LNG fired power station in Thaketa Township and a 150-megawatt LNG fired power station in Kyaukphyu Township to generate and distribute electricity, according to the Myanmar Investment Commission (MIC). The company will spend over US$363 million to build the 400-megawatt LNG fired power station in Thaketa Township, Yangon Region and over US$140 million to build the 150-megawatt LNG fired power station in Kyaukphyu Township, Rakhine State. A total of 50 countries invested US$82 billion total till at the end of 2018-19 FY with Hong Kong coming in 11th place on the foreign investors list with US$8.6 billion.

Country’s largest mini-grid unveiled in Magway The Myanmar Times 5th Dec 2019
With the mini-grid, up to 400 households in Magway’s Lel Ma village now have access to electricity. Myanmar’s electrification rate is one of the lowest in the world at around 50 percent. Kapil Seth, chief executive officer of Mandalay Yoma Energy, hailed the investment as a landmark in electricity access for remote areas of the country. “We see tremendous potential as we strive to deliver sustainable energy access to more homes and enhance the quality of our services for end customers,” Seth said in a press statement. Mandalay Yoma Energy is a solar energy joint venture between French ENGIE Group’s GDF International SAS and Singapore-based consuntancy Sol Partners Pvt Led.

Four hydropower projects to continue implementation in 2019-2020 FY Eleven Media Group Co., Ltd 4th Dec 2019
The four hydropower projects—671-megawatt (MW) Shweli (3) hydropower project, 280-megawatt (MW) Upper Yehwa hydropower project, 111-megawatt (MW) Thahtay hydropower project and 51-megawatt (MW) Upper Kyaingtaung hydropower project—will continue implementations during 2019-2020 fiscal years, said a source from the Ministry of Electricity and Energy.

Solar power plant opens in Lema, Magway Eleven Media Group Co., Ltd 4th Dec 2019
A solar mini-grid power plant was opened in Lema Village, Hsinpaungwe Township, Magway Region, on December 3.  The construction of the power station cost US$7.8 million. The solar mini-grids power plant was built by the Rural Development Department and Mandalay Yoma Company in order to electrify over 400 houses in Lema Village.  For the power supply project, local people had to share 2 percent. Electricity from the station will be distributed free of charge to religious buildings, the rural clinic and roads in the village. For home use, K400 will be charged per unit. 

E& E Ministry receives DCS computerized control systems, instruments Global New Light Of Myanmar 26th Nov 2019
The Ministry of Electricity and Energy has received the Distributed Control System (DCS) Plant Model and its components and equipment from the Yokogawa Electric Corporation in Japan, which is a partner of local-private company SMART Measurement and Control Co. Ltd, a joint venture company with the ministry.

Govt Promises to Meet Myanmar’s Rising Electricity Demand The Irrawaddy 16th Nov 2019
The Ministry of Electricity and Energy is hoping to expand electricity access to half of the population by December, according to Deputy Minister U Khin Maung Win. Of 10,877,832 households in Myanmar, 5,140,061 – or 47 per cent of the population – had access to electricity by October. The deputy minister told the Upper House on Thursday that the ministry was looking to boost that to 50 per cent by next month. Myanmar saw record high temperatures during the recent hot season, resulting in frequent power outages as hydropower failed to meet demand. Power outages have hit factories and transport and pushed up the cost of basic commodities, parliamentarian U Tun Tun Oo said.

Deal signed to purchase power from Kyaukphyu power plant project The Myanmar Times 12th Nov 2019
The Ministry of Electricity and Energy (MOEE) has signed an agreement to purchase electricity generated by the 135 MW gas-fired Kyaukphyu Power Plant that will be built by independent power producer Kyauk Phyu Electric Power Co. According to a statement from the MOEE, the power purchase agreement (PPA) was signed last Tuesday. Kyauk Phyu Electric Power Co is a joint venture between Myanmar’s Supreme Group and Chinese state-owned firm Power China.

Electricity Reform to Light Up Myanmar’s Economy Mizzima Myanmar News and Insight 3rd Dec 2019
Businesses and the general public in Myanmar are divided on the recent bold policy move to hike electricity tariffs. But the big question is: how can the electricity reform contribute to the country’s development? On one hand, the business community seems to be accepting of higher tariff rates as that could lead to a more stable power supply with less power outages. This in turn could bring down maintenance and other production costs with lower use of other costly sources of energy such as diesel-powered generators during power outages. On the other hand, many households may find the tariff increases too steep given the country’s low per capita income. The higher power tariffs mean that consumers will not only have to pay more for their personal electricity consumption at home, but also for other goods and services that require electricity as inputs.

Three new substations boost national grid The Myanmar Times 2nd Dec 2019
U Win Khaing was speaking during the official opening of the Tatkyigon substation in Hmawby Township, Kyuntawkon substation in Okekan Township, and the Aphyauk substation in Aphyauk Township. The three new substations are located in Yangon Region. He said at the event that the priority of the current government has been to develop infrastructure, especially electricity and transportation. “The government’s reformation of the Ministry of Electricity and Energy to fulfill the power needs of the country has proven successful, as the national grid now provides 50 percent of the country’s electricity, compared with just 34 pc in 2016,” U Win Khaing said.

Electricity rate hike is good for economy The Myanmar Times 29th Nov 2019
Businesses and the general public in Myanmar are divided on the recent bold policy move to hike electricity tariffs. But the big question is: how can the electricity reform contribute to the country’s development? On one hand, the business community seems to be accepting of higher tariff rates as that could lead to a more stable power supply with less power outages. This in turn could bring down maintenance and other production costs with lower use of other costly sources of energy such as diesel-powered generators during power outages.

Wärtsilä awarded 40MW equipment supply contract for power plant in Myanmar Energy Live News 25th Nov 2019
The MCM Power facility aims to help meet the nation’s increasing energy demand by feeding baseload power into the national grid and alleviate its ongoing energy shortage. The plant will operate on four natural gas engines and is expected to become operational in April 2020 – its output is planned to be doubled to 80MW at a future date.

Hitachi SEM to provide Myanmar with 5,600 transformers Power Transformer News 20th Nov 2019
Hitachi Soe Electric & Machinery Co., Ltd. (Hitachi SEM) has received orders for the delivery of approximately 5,600 distribution transformers from the Myanmar Ministry of Electricity and Energy. Hitachi SEM is a subsidiary of Hitachi Industrial Equipment Systems Co., Ltd. in the Republic of the Union of Myanmar (Myanmar). The total amount of the orders is equivalent to approximately $10.64 million.Hitachi SEM will start production of the distribution transformers within this year and is planning to deliver all units by the end of 2020, contributing to the improvement of the electrification rate in Myanmar.

Solar could lower power costs for local business, IFC study reveals The Myanmar Times 18th Nov 2019
The study estimates that there are more than 700 megawatts worth of potential commercial and industrial solar projects in Myanmar, which is equivalent to around 10 percent of the country’s existing power generating capacity.

Everyone can now sell electricity - what does this mean for us? GovInsider 18th Nov 2019
In rural Myanmar, microgrids are providing villages disconnected from the main grid with electricity. Yoma Micro Power is building solar-powered microgrids backed up by diesel generators and batteries. It plans to build 2000 of these by the end of 2022, its CEO Alakesh Chetia told GovInsider. They are quicker to build than waiting for the government to expand the national grid infrastructure, he says. “From the time you order materials and they arrive in Myanmar, through to commissioning the power plant, you’re looking at for four to five months,” he says of microgrids.

Norwegian ambassador meets Myanmar's Minister for Electricity and Energy ScandAsia 15th Nov 2019
Union Minister for Electricity and Energy U Win Khaing received Norwegian Ambassador to Myanmar H.E. Tone Tinnes at his office in Nay Pyi Taw on 14th November 2019.

Ayala Corp to invest $238m in companies controlled by Myanmar tycoon Financial Times 13th Nov 2019
Two of south-east Asia’s leading business families are joining forces, with one of the Philippines’ biggest conglomerates investing more than $200m in two companies controlled by Myanmar-born tycoon Serge Pun.

Govt to launch second stage of electrification plan The Myanmar Times 12th Nov 2019
The government will light another 4000 villages across the country in the second phase of its electrification plan, said U Thura Aung Ko, chief engineer and project manager of the Ministry of Electricity and Energy. He added the agency has begun inviting tenders to supply equipment for the project. “We are not yet inviting construction tenders,” U Thura Aung Ko said, adding the second phase is expected to be completed in September 2021. 

Financial Services

11 insurance companies get the nod Eleven Media Group Co., Ltd 4th Dec 2019
The government gave the greenlight to 11 foreign-owned and joint-ventured insurance companies on November 28 according to the Ministry of Planning and Finance. Since 2013, the government started allowing the private sector to provide insurance services for the development of insurance sector. Now, the State-owned Myanma Insurance, 11 private life insurance companies and eight general insurance services companies are providing insurance services. As a second step, the government gives the nod to the foreign insurance companies in Myanmar. The new insurance companies will introduce new insurance types, insurance technologies and international insurance experiences. Thanks to it, the public will get more insurance covers. On the other hand, the local monetary sector and foreign investment sector will see more improvements, according to the Ministry of Planning and Finance.

Can Myanmar’s state-owned banks turn challenges into opportunities? The Myanmar Times 2nd Dec 2019
Myanmar’s state-owned banks (SOBs) are currently at a crossroads. Following the opening-up of the banking system, the state-owned banks have been pushed to catch up with rapidly-growing private banks, many of which have invested in technology, digitising operations and expanding mobile services. Responding to competition, the four state-owned banks are taking steps to diversify their loan portfolios, including to accommodate rising loan demand in rural areas, as identified in AMRO’s 2019 Annual Consultation Report on Myanmar. The SOBs have also expressed intentions to modernise and enhance efficiency through investments in staff development and information technology. Limited staff capabilities such as in assessing credit risks as well as outdated banking infrastructure have weighed on state-owned banks’ financial performance.

Myanmar awards insurance licences to five foreign providers, six joint ventures The Myanmar Times 28th Nov 2019
The Financial Regulatory Department today awarded licences to five foreign insurers and half a dozen joint ventures to operate in the Myanmar market. British Prudential, Japanese Dai-ichi Life, Hong Kong AIA, US Chubb and Canadian Manulife have been permitted to issue life insurance policies in Myanmar with their fully-owned subsidiary, more than half a year after the five insurers were granted provisional licences. The approval marked Myanmar’s first-ever licencing to foreign fully-owned life insurers.

Land bank to go online The Myanmar Times 28th Nov 2019
Myanmar’s land bank will be fully digitalised and online access given to investors applying for land on which to do business in the country,” said U Thaung Tun, chair of Myanmar Investment Commission. Obtaining land is the main challenge for both local and foreign investors when they set up businesses in Myanmar. The country is already making several economic reforms, and aims to accelerate the reforms, said U Thaung Tun, and the setting up of the online land bank is one of the priorities of the Ministry of Investment and Foreign Economic Relations. The current economic reforms are of great help for the future economic development of the country. So, the country’s economy will surely improve, said U Thaung Tun.

Institutional investors launch association in Myanmar InternationalInvestment 26th Nov 2019
Private equity firms have come together to form the Myanmar Private Equity & Venture Capital Association to give institutional investors a voice when engaging with the local authorities. Backed by the UK's CDC Group, the association was officially launched in Naypyidaw and aims to meet every month for training or networking purposes. The association currently has 11 full members including Anthem Asia, an independent private equity firm and Yangon Capital Partners, a venture capital firm set up by Trust Venture Partners. 

Better bank services, enforcement needed for remittance licences to work The Myanmar Times 22nd Nov 2019
In an attempt to shrink the volume of illegal money transfers between Myanmar and its neighbours, the Central Bank of Myanmar (CBM) last week announced the availability of official remittance licences. The move, which commenced on November 15, is aimed at facilitating the legal movement of money by traders and migrant workers based overseas into Myanmar and encourage official remittance businesses to emerge, the CBM said. But banking experts questions its effectiveness in checking widespread illegal Hundi operations, which tap a vast network of traders stationed across borders to bring the money into the country.

Official remittance licences now available for migrant workers The Myanmar Times 20th Nov 2019
Workers are now able to apply for official remittance licences to transfer money between Myanmar and other countries, according to the Central Bank of Myanmar (CBM). The move, which commenced on November 15, is aimed at facilitating money transfers to Myanmar by migrant workers based overseas. A deposit of K100 million is required to apply for the licence. Overseas employment agencies are expected to apply. The monthly remittance limit is US$5000 for each worker and US$1000 is allowed per transfer, according to the CBM.

Food & Agriculture

Mon State throws open doors for investors in six sectors The Myanmar Times 2nd Dec 2019
The Mon State government is inviting investors to participate in six sectors to help boost the state’s economy. This was announced during the Mon State Investment Fair held last Friday and Saturday. The six sectors that the state government has decided to focus on are agriculture, fisheries, tourism, trade and logistics, manufacturing and infrastructure.

Firms use technology to optimise agriculture yields in Shan The Myanmar Times 27th Nov 2019
Using its smart precision systems, HydroPlant will provide vital information on the weather, soil conditions and other necessary details vital for cultivation to AEG Agriculture. The smart precision systems offer information that farmers need via a smartphone, including an automatic control system. For example, a machine measures the required temperature and humidity of a crop, which can be monitored via a smartphone.  This agreement to use technology in agriculture is the first of its kind in Shan State, said U Htet Aung Hlaing, CEO of HydroPlant. AEG Agriculture cultivates maize across about 5,000 acres of land in Shan State. With help from Hydro Plant, the company will be able to better manage its crops to ensure efficiency. 

Value chain finance could improve agricultural productivity: economists The Myanmar Times 14th Nov 2019
Value-chain financing is an important aspect of agriculture, Myanmar’s most important industry, that requires more attention, a Yangon University of Economics academic association says. UK-funded private-sector development programme DaNa Facility and the Myanmar Economic Association (MEA) organised a workshop on the value chain in agriculture with the aim of expanding access to agricultural financing and boosting inclusive development through financing of the value chain.

Myanmar urges ASEAN cooperation in rural development Mizzima Myanmar News and Insight 25th Nov 2019
Myanmar has urged ASEAN to intensify cooperation in rural development and poverty eradication efforts, according to the News Straits Times. Minister for Agriculture, Livestock and Irrigation, U Aung Thu, said that total poverty eradication is necessary for the sustainable development of a nation; and urged all ASEAN members to work together in lifting their people out of poverty. He attributed the current success of the 10-member group in reducing poverty to exchanging experiences and finding new approaches in efforts to fight the problem. U Tun Lwin, deputy permanent secretary of the ministry, said that the Myanmar government is implementing people-centred projects using a World Bank loan, among others.

Health & Life Sciences

State Counsellor addresses Medical Skill, Simulation and Research Center opening ceremony in Yangon Global New Light Of Myanmar 2nd Dec 2019
State Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi attended and addressed an opening ceremony of the Medical Skill, Simulation and Research Center held in the compound of University of Medicine 1, Yangon yesterday afternoon. Present at the event were Union Ministers Lt-Gen Kyaw Swe, Dr Pe Myint, U Min Thu, Dr Myo Thein Gyi and Dr Myint Htwe, Peace Commission Chairman Dr Tin Myo Win, Yangon Region Chief Minister U Phyo Min Thein, Yangon Region Hluttaw Speaker U Tin Maung Tun, Region government ministers, Ministry of Health and Sports Permanent Secretary, Rectors of medical and related universities, department heads, students, donors and invited guests. The Medicial Skill, Simulation and Research Center was opened by State Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, Union Ministers Lt-Gen Kyaw Swe, Dr Pe Myint, U Min Thu, Dr Myo Thein Gyi and Dr Myint Htwe, Peace Commission Chairman Dr Tin Myo Win, Yangon Region Chief Minister U Phyo Min Thein and Yangon Region Hluttaw Speaker U Tin Maung Tun cutting the ceremonial ribbon.

Medical research training centre to open in Mandalay The Myanmar Times 28th Nov 2019
A medical research training centre will open in Pyin Oo Lwin township in Mandalay Region next month to improve the skills of researchers and provide basic research training to students, a health ministry spokesman said. The centre, which will be under the Department of Medical Research, is a collaboration of the Ministry of Health and Sports and the Ministry of Education, according to U Thar Tun Kyaw, permanent secretary of the health ministry. “We plan to conduct the research training programme for the whole year. Not only people working in the public sector, but also people in the private sector can attend the training in Pyin Oo Lwin,” he said. The centre will provide training in research protocol writing, scientific writing, research design, and research methodology, he added.

Call to ease restrictions on Myanmar-origin doctors with permanent resident status Mizzima Myanmar News 3rd Dec 2019
Minister of Health and Sports Dr. Myint Htwe said that they would ease restrictions imposed on Myanmar-origin doctors staying with permanent resident (PR) status in Myanmar. Dr. Myint Htwe said this is reply to a question as to whether there was any plan to ease restrictions imposed on Myanmar-origin medical doctors with PR status like other nations do, raised by lower house MP Dr. Than Win from North Okkalapa constituency in the parliament session on November 29. Currently the foreigner doctors have to pay 600,000 kyats per month to the government and Dr. Myint Htwe said they would completely waive current tax collection from Myanmar-origin medical specialists who are currently paying taxes at the rate of 300,000 kyats per month. North Okkalapa constituency MP Dr. Than Win told reporters that in addition to monthly tax payments, these Myanmar origin medical doctors with PR status were facing restrictions on their place of work and choice of hospital.

Officials raise alarm over drug resistance The Myanmar Times 1st Dec 2019
Dr Htay Htay Tin said antibiotics resistance in the country was skyrocketing, which leads to the inability to treat diseases. She warned that resistance to drugs develops over time, “until it becomes a bigger and bigger catastrophe. It has risen rapidly in the past three years,” Dr Htay Htay Tin said. The resistance to drugs used to treat simple problems like acne had reached 45 percent, while resistance to drugs to treat diarrhoea has reached 27pc. “Other countries are better able to control this than us. We are just starting to develop our capabilities,” she said. Dr Htay Htay Tin underscored the need for all government agencies to cooperate to prevent people from having easy access to drugs without prescriptions, especially antibiotics.

Yangon plans measles-rubella vaccination campaign The Myanmar Times 12th Nov 2019
Htun Myint, deputy director general of the Health Department has stated that the department has scheduled supplementary measles and rubella immunisation in all 45 townships in the region to reduce deaths among children from the disease. “This immunisation campaign can reduce the deaths of children under five,” he said. “This is our goal. We want to eliminate measles and rubella by 2023 across the country.”  The department would use over 637,000 doses of vaccine during the three-day campaign. The cost of the measles-rubella vaccine is US$1.40 (K2100) per child, it added. The campaign will vaccinate an estimated 574,000 children aged nine months to five and a half years old.

ICT

Japanese companies to upgrade telecommunications infrastructure Mizzima Myanmar 5th Dec 2019
Trading house Sojitz Corp and three other Japanese companies will upgrade telecommunications infrastructure in Myanmar in a 7-billion-yen project financed by a low-interest loan from the Japanese government, nippon.com reported. The companies received an order for the project from Myanma Posts & Telecommunications, the country's largest telecom operator, according to a statement released Wednesday. It will be the first official Japanese development assistance loan project for a Myanmar telecom operator.

Ooredoo Said to Weigh Reducing Stake in $4 Billion Myanmar Unit Bloomberg 14th Nov 2019
Qatari carrier Ooredoo QPSC is considering reducing its stake in its Myanmar unit amid fierce competition in one of the world’s newest mobile-phone markets, people familiar with the matter said. Ooredoo has been gauging interest from potential investors including state-owned China Telecommunications Corp. about taking a stake in its Myanmar business, according to the people. A deal could value the unit at as much as $4 billion, the people said, asking not to be identified because the information is private.

Why women are driving Myanmar’s IT sector growth Frontier Myanmar 13th Nov 2019
OF THE 10 software developers at Axon Active’s Yangon office, nine are women. It wasn’t what country manager Mr Dominik Sauter had expected when he began setting up the Myanmar branch of the Swiss offshore software development company. “I didn’t choose it,” Sauter said. “But when I recruited my first batch of developers, I received applications almost exclusively from women. And the few male candidates I met seemed to be timid.” This ratio, though, is not particularly unusual in Myanmar’s tech sector. While there are no figures on the gender ratio of the country’s total IT workforce, which spans approximately 2,000 companies from telecommunication providers to hardware stores, it is reflected in other indicators. For example, around 70 percent of the 3,000 graduates from Myanmar’s 25 computer universities are women.

Local e-commerce firms call on govt to ease regulations The Myanmar Times 28th Nov 2019
The sales bonanza shows that a growing number of shoppers in Myanmar are bypassing malls and shops in favour of buying online, which augurs well for the future of e-commerce in the country.  But the shift in consumer preferences has spurred traditional brick-and-mortar retailers to lobby the government for more regulation of e-commerce to ensure a level playing field.  In March 2018, the Ministry of Commerce announced plans to draft the country’s first e-commerce law, though no further information has been released since.  E-commerce businesses have expressed concerns about other laws regulating the online retail sector. They said regulations aimed at protecting consumers can interfere with e-commerce businesses and dampen their growth potential.

Infrastructure

ADB approves $195 million financing package for development Mizzima Myanmar 5th Dec 2019
The Asian Development Bank (ADB) has approved a $195 million financing package for a project that will develop climate-resilient and market-oriented infrastructure and livelihoods in 2,942 villages in Myanmar’s Ayeyarwady, Chin, Sagaing, and Tanintharyi regions. This will help reduce rural poverty and strengthen the villages' climate and disaster resilience, benefiting around 1.8 million people, according to a statement. The project will help identify, develop, and fund 3,000 climate- and disaster-resilient community infrastructure subprojects, which include village access or farm roads, small bridges, water supply, electric grid connection, and multipurpose centers. These infrastructure subprojects, which will be selected based on their contribution to the village’s resilience as well as public and economic benefits, will have a strong gender component, with women comprising 40% of the labor requirements in their construction and operations.

Myanmar builds airport in mountainous northwestern state Xinhua 26th Nov 2019
Myanmar is building an airport in the far-flung mountainous Falam township of Chin state to bring more tourists to the region. the Department of Civil Aviation has said. The authorities are using a state budget of 19.93 billion kyats (13.28 million U.S. dollars) for the first phase of the Surbung Airport project, according to the Department of Civil Aviation late on Monday. Runways, terminals and navigation facilities are being built and 58.3 percent of the airport construction work are said to have been completed.

Yangon Amata Smart and Eco City project to be implemented Eleven Media Group Co., Ltd 14th Nov 2019
Hong Kong-based Yangon Amata Smart and Eco City Ltd will implement a Smart and Eco City project with an investment of US$274.68 million on 2,000 acres of land near Laydaunkkan Village between East Dagon and South Dagon townships in Yangon Region, according to Myanmar Investment Commission. To implement the project, the Urban and Housing Development Department under the Ministry of Construction and Amata Corporation Public Co Ltd signed a framework agreement on August 22. During the agreement signing ceremony, Yangon Region Chief Minister Phyo Min Thein said the aim was to establish an industrial zone in the region in cooperation with Amata Company.

Chinese Mega-Project in Myanmar’s Kayin State Sparks Resentment And Worry Radio Free Asia 13th Nov 2019
Dozens of newly built villas line a street as concrete skeletons of what may become hotels or casinos stand half-finished nearby. A new paved roadway allows access to more than a dozen boxy two-story buildings still under construction opposite plots of cleared land streaked with muddy tire tracks. Farther along the road, about 30 warehouse-type buildings with blue roofs stand at attention beside a river, while in the distance villagers’ small homes dot lush green fields. The Chinese-backed U.S. $15 billion real estate mega-project along the Thaungyin River in southeastern Myanmar’s Kayin state has been dubbed Shwe Kokko “Chinatown” by locals. It sits about 12 miles from the state capital Myawaddy and a 10-minute drive to the Thai town of Mae Sot.

Trade war could be ‘silver lining’ for Myanmar The Myanmar Times 15th Nov 2019
The US-China trade war has provided “silver linings” for many countries, such as Vietnam. in the Southeast Asia region, said Simon Tay,  Chairman of Singapore Institute of International Affairs (SIIA), in the opening speech at the Myanmar-Singapore Business Summit yesterday.

Manufacturing

Myanmar expects factory investment to jump on US-China trade tension The Myanmar Times 13th Nov 2019
Myanmar expects to attract more investment as manufacturers seeking to relocate production from China to skirt US tariffs encounter capacity constraints in Vietnam. Myanmar’s goal is to woo a total of US$5.8 billion (K8.79 trillion) in foreign-direct investment this year, so it is trying to cut back the red tape that deters some companies, according to a senior government official. “When it comes to relocation, Vietnam might be preferable, but it’s already congested,” said Aung Naing Oo, permanent secretary of the Investment and Foreign Economic Relations Ministry. “So investors are eyeing Indonesia and Myanmar.”

Travel & Tourism

Thai Investors Look to Bring Mass Tourism to Myanmar’s Myeik Archipelago The Irrawaddy 4th Dec 2019
Business owners from Thailand have expressed interest to invest in tourism in Kawthaung and the Myeik archipelago, in Tanintharyi Region in southern Myanmar, according to Director-General U Thant Sin Lwin of the Directorate of Investment and Company Administration (DICA). “The region has mainly engaged in livestock and mining, and lately, tourism is springing up in the region. Thai investors are very interested,” said the director-general. The region will host an investment forum on Dec. 7 in Myeik, where opportunities to invest in tourism, fisheries and mining would be presented to potential domestic and foreign investors, he said. A Thai businessman has held talks with DICA and enquired about the potential for operating tours to the Myeik archipelago by plane.

High-end eco beach resort project proposed in Gwa, Rakhine The Myanmar Times 3rd Dec 2019
Local company Sea Lion Group has announced its intention to build an eco-resort at a site located along Ma Kyay Ngu Beach, near Gwa Township, Rakhine State. According to information made available to The Myanmar Times, Sea Lion Group informed the Rakhine State government that it is proposing to build a hotel, shopping centre, and an organic farm on a 20 hectare site across the Gwa River from Gwa Township. The project will include swimming pools, an 80-room hotel, arrival jetty, and areas specifically for shallow swimming, water sports, and children. The company said, upon receiving approval for the project, construction will begin in phases.

Tourist numbers to Myanmar rise The Myanmar Times 14th Nov 2019
The Ministry of Hotels and Tourism recently released data showing that from January to September this year, more than 1.3 million foreign tourists visited Myanmar. This represents 390,000 more visitors or a 41 percent rise compared to the same period last year The ministry said the increase can be attributed to more visitors coming from Asian countries, such as Japan, South Korea and China, which have been the targets of the government’s “Look-East policy” for tourism.