Myanmar Update: April 1, 2020

Myanmar Update | April 1, 2020
Authors: Jack Myint and Ingyin
 
LOOKING AHEAD
 
 
POSTPONED: 2020 Myanmar Business Mission, April 27-30: Due to the situation surrounding COVID-19 in the United States and the Myanmar Government's announcement on the suspension of visas to all foreign nationals until April 30, the Council has decided to postpone our annual Myanmar Business Mission. The new mission dates are yet to be determined but we will work closely with the Myanmar Government and U.S. Embassy, Yangon to find a mutually convenient timeframe later this year. Please contact Jack Myint at jmyint@usasean.org with any questions. 
 
THE COUNCIL'S TAKE
 
 

Myanmar COVID-19 Response Updates

Travel

On March 28, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced that the Government would be enforcing four critical measures, effective March 29 until April 30, to contain the spread of COVID-19 within the country. The temporary restrictions are as follows:

  1. Issuance of all types of visas has been temporarily suspended except for diplomats, accredited to Myanmar, UN officials with resident in Myanmar, and crew of ships and aircraft operating to and from Myanmar.
  2. The visa exemption program for ASEAN nationals has also been suspended except for those with diplomatic passports.
  3.  Diplomats and United Nations officials must present a negative COVID-19 test issued by recognized laboratories before boarding their flights; they will also be subjected to a mandatory home quarantine of 14 days.
  4. Crew of aircraft and ships are to follow mandated guidelines issued by the Ministry of Transport and Communication as the situation continues to evolve.

Myanmar has also banned all inbound international commercial flights effective March 30 until April 13. However, the temporary ban does not affect cargo flights, relief flights, medical evacuation flights or special flights with pre-approval from the Department of Civil Aviation.


Economic Stimulus

On March 18, the Government announced an initial economic stimulus package estimated to be worth around 100 billion Kyats (US$70 million). The fund will assist sectors considered most vulnerable to the consequences of COVID-19. As such, the garment and manufacturing sector (CMP), hotel and tourism businesses, as well as local SMEs are eligible to request monetary assistance from the government if they meet the following criteria:

currently active or have been in operation for the past three months prior to the date of the stimulus announcement;

  1. have the ability to resume operations upon receipt of the loans;
  2. must not have been suspended on removed from the company register;
  3. have timely paid commercial, income and special goods taxes;
  4. must have been licensed before the end of March 2018;
  5. must have had annual income for the past two years;
  6. must be able to repay the loan.

The committee to assist with the country’s short and long term socio-economic policies in the face of COVID-19 also highlights that inability to repay the loans within one year would be met with prosecution, as well as negative ratings by the Myanmar Credit Bureau. The stimulus package ensures that the loans are disbursed at a rate of 1% and repayable for a period of one year, with these conditions subjected to reassessment after the virus outbreak has passed. To further aid the economy, the Central Bank of Myanmar will reduce its interest rate from 9.5 to 8.5%  beginning April 1. The minimum bank deposit rate will also be lowered from 7.5 to 6.5%, while the maximum lending rate is reduced to 11.5% for collateralized loans and 14.5 percent for non-collateralized loans. 
Tax deadlines have also been extended- commercial tax and quarterly income tax payments can be made through September 30 of the year.

Yangon Stock Exchange Opens Up Limited Foreign Participation

Commencing March 20, foreigners can trade shares on the Yangon Stock Exchange (YSX) among three of its five listed companies - a move that aims to accelerate Myanmar’s economic advancement through foreign direct investment. Myanmar Citizens Bank is limited to local investors only, while TMH Telecom awaits approval from authorities to allow foreigners to trade. First Private Bank only allows foreign financial institutions to trade shares, while First Myanmar Investment and Myanmar Thilawa SEZ Holdings have set a foreign investment cap to 2% and 5% respectively.

To trade, both resident and non-resident foreigners must open a Myanmar Kyat-denominated account, while non-resident foreigners are additionally required to open a second foreign currency-denominated account. These requirements serve to ensure that acts of illegal handling of cash and/or money laundering are prohibited, and trading can continue in a sustained manner.

The YSX opened in March 2016, and the Myanmar Companies Law which has been in effect since 2018, allows foreign nationals to own up to a 35 percent stake in local companies.

 
IN THIS UPDATE
 
 

Regional Affairs
Commerce and Conflict: Navigating Myanmar’s China Relationship
Western pressure pushes Myanmar towards China
Myanmar to continue labour exports despite COVID-19

National Affairs
UN to Send 50,000 More Test Kits to Myanmar - Myanmar
Myanmar reports four new COVID-19 patients, cases jump to 14
Myanmar Military Gives Support to Religious Leaders, Govt on COVID-19 Prevention
Myanmar central bank cuts interest rate by a further 1%
Myanmar govt readies facilities for possible quarantine
Doctors register as volunteers to fight Covid-19 in Myanmar
Myanmar military drops charges against Reuters, local online news portal
Myanmar imposes new travel curbs over coronavirus, says UK
Myanmar Prepared to Ease Coronavirus Impact on Economy: Suu Kyi
US announces more than $59M in aid for Rohingya
Myanmar’s Military Retains Important Political Role as NLD’s Key Charter Reforms Fail to Pass
NLD hopes to regain public confidence
Stirring hatreds ahead of Myanmar elections
Is constitutional reform a journey to nowhere?
Myanmar govt faces setbacks in enforcing compliance with EITI database
Shwe Mann dreams big in an election year

Economics
Myanmar Govt Announces Loan Package for Coronavirus-Hit Businesses in Key Sectors
World Bank, ADB to assist in Myanmar’s efforts to deal with COVID-19’s effects
Myanmar's stock market cracks open door to foreigners
COVID-19 will lead to slower Myanmar economy: MIC
11 Factories in Myanmar Close Due to Lack of Orders, Raw Materials
EU trade perks in the balance
Myanmar logistics firm Ever Flow River to list on March 20

Energy
Yoma’s green power project delivers electricity to tens of thousands in Myanmar
Domestic investments touch K1,084 bln, $233.47 mln in current fiscal year
Myanmar builds a port for LNG tankers in Thilawa SEZ
Solar power gains ground in Sagaing

Financial Services
Myanmar Central Bank Cuts Interest Rates Another 1% to Aid Economy
Banking on a cashless future
Insurers authorised to provide bancassurance in Myanmar
Foreign insurers added more than $120M to industry in Myanmar

Food & Agriculture
Myanmar has enough food despite coronavirus fears
Myanmar launches aquaculture roadmap
Fisheries exports not as badly hit as agriculture by virus
Myanmar lost 60% of mangrove forests in 20 years

Health & Life Sciences
Working Committee holds meeting to address impact of COVID-19 on country’s economy
Myanmar to roll out advance in kidney-matching
YCDC takes steps to make Yangon more livable
Myanmar legislator seeks to regulate e-cigarettes, water pipes
Singapore sends coronavirus test kits to Myanmar
Govt names second marine protected area in Tanintharyi

Infrastructure
China committed to investing in Myanmar despite COVID-19 pandemic: Ambassador
EIA process for Kyaukphyu port to start
Four-lane elevated expressway to build in the middle of roads mostly in Ygn
Upgrades for Thandwe airport runway
Locals voice approval for Yangon Elevated Expressway
Firms invited to bid for upgrade of Yangon-Mandalay expressway


Manufacturing
Auto industry seeks easing of duties on car components
Trade Unions demand government check garment factory claims

Travel & Tourism
Myanmar stops all int’l commercial flights from landing
Myanmar suspends all types of visas for foreign nationals to contain Covid-19
Coronavirus: Manipur Closes Border With Myanmar To Curb Deadly Transmission

 
ARTICLE CLIPS
 
 
Regional Affairs

Commerce and Conflict: Navigating Myanmar’s China Relationship Crisis Group 30th Mar 2020
The relationship between Myanmar and China has always been coloured by mutual distrust, and Myanmar has tried to balance China’s influence by seeking out other strategic relationships, in the region and beyond. But since the brutal violence against the Rohingya of 2016-2017 strained its relations with the West and much of the Global South, Naypyitaw has come to rely even more heavily on Beijing. As it is pushed further in this direction, both countries must ensure that the mega projects and many other smaller private investments that China has proposed do not exacerbate armed conflict in various parts of Myanmar.

Western pressure pushes Myanmar towards China The Myanmar Times 6th Mar 2020
Fitch Solutions, a unit of the UK Fitch Group, said China looks likely to be the dominant foreign influence over the coming years with its already entrenched interests over Myanmar coupled with the possibility of news sanctions from the West due to human rights abuses. On the economic front, China has been the top investor following the tumbling of western investment after the Rakhine humanitarian crisis that shocked the world in 2017.

Myanmar to continue labour exports despite COVID-19 The Myanmar Times 4th Mar 2020
Daw Thin Thin Lwin, assistant director of the Overseas Job Agency under the Ministry of Labour, Immigration and Population, said that the government will continue to send workers abroad to Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Japan, Jordan, Qatar, and even to South Korea which is now the center of the virus outbreak. As of March 4, the Myanmar government said the country had no confirmed cases of COVID-19. The Health Ministry also added that over 50 people suspected of having the virus had all tested negative.

National Affairs

UN to Send 50,000 More Test Kits to Myanmar - Myanmar ReliefWeb 31st Mar 2020
The United Nations is working in close consultation with the Union Ministry of Health and Sports, and other Government authorities, to define areas of support in relation to the prevention and control of infection, including the procurement of personal protective equipment, specialized medical equipment, and the expansion of health facility capacities.

Myanmar reports four new COVID-19 patients, cases jump to 14 The Myanmar Times 30th Mar 2020
On March 30, the Ministry of Health and Sports reported four new COVID-19 patients, increasing the number of cases in the country to 14, just one week after Myanmar’s first two cases were announced. The new cases included three French nationals who had been in contact with a 60-year-old Myanmar tour guide who tested positive for COVID-19 on Saturday. The fourth case is a 24-year-old Myanmar man from Kyaukme township in Shan State who recently visited Bangkok. The government is unsure how to monitor the thousands of Myanmar migrant workers who returned from Thailand last week after the kingdom announced a lockdown.

Myanmar Military Gives Support to Religious Leaders, Govt on COVID-19 Prevention The Irrawaddy 30th Mar 2020
Myanmar’s regional military commanders have provided medicine, protective masks, hand sanitizer and conducted medical checks for religious leaders in different states and regions, as a contribution to government efforts to prevent and control the spread of COVID-19. According to the Office of the Commander-in-Chief, the regional commands conducted medical checks, sanitized religious sites and gave donations to senior Buddhist monks, nuns and leaders from other religions in Naypyitaw, Kachin, Shan, Kayah, Mon and Rakhine states and Tanintharyi, Sagaing, Bago, Mandalay and Yangon regions.

Myanmar central bank cuts interest rate by a further 1% The Myanmar Times 24th Mar 2020
The Central Bank of Myanmar (CBM) slashed interest rates by an additional 1 percent today (March 24), taking total rate cuts to 1.5pc within the span of two weeks. Starting from April 1, bank deposit rates in Myanmar will be reduced a minimum of 6.5pc, while lending rates will not exceed 11.5pc for collateralised loans and 14.5pc for other unsecured loans, according to the CBM

Myanmar govt readies facilities for possible quarantine The Myanmar Times 23rd Mar 2020
The Yangon Region Government has prepared 500 apartment units and two 300-bed hospitals for quarantine purposes, should the COVID-19 virus strike the city, according to Chief Minister U Phyo Min Thein. The regional government continues to seek monetary assistance and medical equipment as the spread and severity cannot be predicted.

Doctors register as volunteers to fight Covid-19 in Myanmar The Star Online 22nd Mar 2020
Eighty doctors have registered themselves as volunteers to Myanmar Medical Association (Central) for the prevention and treatment of COVID-19 to this date. Myanmar Medical Association (Central) in collaboration with Ministry of Health and Sports has been enlisting volunteer doctors for the prevention and treatment of Covid-19 since March 20.

Myanmar military drops charges against Reuters, local online news portal The Myanmar Times 18th Mar 2020
The Tatmadaw (Myanmar military) has dropped defamation charges against an editor of local news website The Irrawaddy and the Reuters news agency, a senior official of the Myanmar Press Council said Thursday. The Tatmadaw’s True News agency sent a letter to the council on March 18 expressing its desire to strengthen understanding and trust between the media and the Tatmadaw to help ensure that news coverage is accurate, fair and adheres to media ethics.

Myanmar imposes new travel curbs over coronavirus, says UK Reuters 15th Mar 2020
Myanmar has imposed new rules banning and restricting travelers from China, South Korea and parts of Europe due to the coronavirus pandemic, the British foreign office said on Sunday, warning against all but essential travel there. “Myanmar has imposed new restrictions: travelers who have recently visited France, Italy, Iran, Spain and Germany will be placed in government quarantine facilities for 14 days on arrival,” it said in a statement. Travelers who have recently visited the United States will be put under surveillance for 14 days and those who have been to China or South Korea banned from entry, it said.

Myanmar Prepared to Ease Coronavirus Impact on Economy: Suu Kyi The Irrawaddy 11th Mar 2020
The State Counselor said that the government formed a committee under the Ministry for International Cooperation when the coronavirus outbreak began. “Every day we have been very vigilant about the ongoing situation—the challenges of health, as well as the economic and social challenges. We have kept ourselves alert 24 hours and plan to overcome the challenges with our expertise, with the abilities of our people,” Daw Aung San Suu Kyi said. “There are efforts to secure better health and economic benefits for the people, as much as we can.”

US announces more than $59M in aid for Rohingya Anadolu Agency 10th Mar 2020
The U.S. announced more than $59 million in additional humanitarian assistance for Rohingya refugees and host communities in Bangladesh on Thursday. The aid will also cover internally displaced Rohingya and members of other affected communities in Myanmar, State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus said in a statement.

Myanmar’s Military Retains Important Political Role as NLD’s Key Charter Reforms Fail to Pass The Irrawaddy 10th Mar 2020
The Union Parliament voted on amendments to 14 provisions of the Constitution, including proposals that sought to end the defense services’ national political leadership role, gradually reduce the military’s share of seats, and end both the commander-in-chief’s role as the supreme commander of the armed forces and his right to take power during an emergency. Only two proposals — the changes to the written term for “disabled” in Burmese — received approval from more than 75% of lawmakers.

NLD hopes to regain public confidence The Myanmar Times 6th Mar 2020
U Zaw Myint Maung, Vice Chair of the NLD party, said a survey showed that public confidence in the party had dropped to 60 percent and urged members not to bicker over the selection of election candidates.   The right man in the right place is the policy we need. Priority will be given to candidates who are determined to develop Myanmar as a federal democratic union, who believe in the NLD manifesto, and who are in harmony with the party, U Zaw Myint Maung said.

Stirring hatreds ahead of Myanmar elections The Interpreter 4th Mar 2020
With national elections looming in November, fake news and anti-Muslim hate speech inspired by militant Buddhist nationalism have the potential to incite further conflict. Myanmar’s winner-take-all electoral system incentivises parties to inflame their existing base, rather than appeal to new voters, because a party only needs a plurality of votes to win a district. Political analysts predict that Aung San Suu Kyi’s party may not win by the landslide it did in 2015. Hoping to prevent further erosion at the polls, the NLD may thus follow the opposition’s lead in playing to racial and religious identity, which would make this already turbulent election year even more troubled.

Is constitutional reform a journey to nowhere? Frontier Myanmar 4th Mar 2020
Proposals to amend the 2008 Constitution are finally being discussed in the Pyidaungsu Hluttaw and there have been heated exchanges between members of the politically dominant National League for Democracy (NLD) and unelected military MPs and lawmakers from the Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP). The latter oppose the NLD’s proposals for charter reform. Debate has been so robust at times that the speaker has directed that some outbursts be expunged from the parliamentary record.

Myanmar govt faces setbacks in enforcing compliance with EITI database The Myanmar Times 3rd Mar 2020
Under the Myanmar Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI), the government says it still lacks the mechanisms to force companies to disclose ownership information through a public registry, which are part of recent measures to clean up corruption in the extractive industry. The Myanmar Times notes that only five out of the 163 companies declared that they have politically exposed persons, while some with very obvious links to powerful figures, such as Kyaing International Gems Co, did not disclose their connections. Mr. Donowitz from Global Witness Myanmar warns that those responsible for maintaining these public registries “must guard carefully against the temptations of backsliding”. For example, he said the decision by the Directorate of Investment and Company Administration (DICA) to place key identifying information about corporate officers behind a paywall on its company registry “sends the wrong message both to domestic actors and the international community.”

Shwe Mann dreams big in an election year Frontier Myanmar 3rd Mar 2020
In the last decade, the 72-year-old chairman of the Union Betterment Party has gone from battle-hardened Tatmadaw general, to Daw Aung San Suu Kyi ally, to the leader of one of Myanmar’s youngest political parties, which was registered with the Union Election Commission in February last year. For some, he will forever be remembered as the No.3 in a military junta that locked up thousands of pro-democracy activists and waged brutal campaigns in the ethnic borderlands. For many in the military, he is the turncoat who allied with their long-time foe, Aung San Suu Kyi, for the sake of his political career. For the Lady herself, he offered a way into Nay Pyi Taw power politics, whose hidden rules she had to learn quickly after 15 years of house arrest.

Economics

Myanmar Govt Announces Loan Package for Coronavirus-Hit Businesses in Key Sectors The Irrawaddy 30th Mar 2020
The Myanmar government announced that the most vulnerable sectors—CMP (garment and manufacturing) and hotel and tourism businesses, as well as small and medium-sized enterprises owned by local businesspeople—can apply for loans from the COVID-19 fund set up by the state. The fund, which was created last week, earmarks 100 billion kyats (about US$72 million) for those sectors, which have been recognized as priorities for state assistance based on their vulnerability to COVID-19. The interest rate on loans provided by the fund will be only 1 percent with a loan period of one year.

World Bank, ADB to assist in Myanmar’s efforts to deal with COVID-19’s effects The Myanmar Times 25th Mar 2020
Ministry of Investment and Foreign Economic Relations (MIFER) said the World Bank informed that it would make available US 14 Billion to support member countries’ efforts to meet the challenge of COVID-19. The World Bank said US 50 million would be available for Myanmar under IDA credit Fast Track Facility and that World Bank teams were currently evaluating the possible impact on Myanmar’s economy. Asian Development Bank also informed that would allocate US$ 6.5 billion assistance package for Developing Member Countries of ADB.

Myanmar's stock market cracks open door to foreigners Nikkei Asian Review 24th Mar 2020
Foreign investors were allowed into Myanmar's fledgling stock market on Monday March 23, stoking hopes that the infusion of international funds will breathe new life into the country's economy. The new rules permit foreign residents and nonresidents alike to open an account at domestic brokerages. Through these channels, participants can engage in online investing. Following the acceptance of foreign investment in the retail and wholesale sectors in May 2018 and the issuance of licenses to foreign insurance companies in November 2019, the government, led by State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi, aims to attract foreign capital and accelerate modernization of Myanmar's economy.

COVID-19 will lead to slower Myanmar economy: MIC The Myanmar Times 19th Mar 2020
The Myanmar Investment Commission (MIC), which oversees investments in the country, said the economic slowdown caused by the virus outbreak is already being felt in other countries and will likely have an impact on Myanmar. MIC Secretary mentioned that the dramatic economic impact the virus has had around the world is bound to dampen the ability of businesses to invest in countries like Myanmar.

11 Factories in Myanmar Close Due to Lack of Orders, Raw Materials The Irrawaddy 4th Mar 2020
Thirteen factories in Yangon and Bago regions have closed or cut back staff in Myanmar since January due to factors like a lack of raw materials, no orders and no buyers, according to the Ministry of Labor’s factories inspection department. Seven factories had closed permanently, four had shut temporarily and two had reduced their workforce. Most are garment factories, with the others making shoes, steel, wood, paper and printed goods.

EU trade perks in the balance The Myanmar Times 2nd Mar 2020
On February 12, the European Union Commission pulled the plug on Cambodia’s Generalised Scheme of Preferences (GSP), citing “serious and systematic violations of human-rights principles,” partially withdrawing the country’s preferential access to the EU. The decision resulted in uncertainty for Myanmar’s industries, especially the garment and shoemaking sectors, as the EU imports more than 45 percent of garments made in Myanmar. If similar measures were applied to Myanmar, it could affect industries that employ over half a million workers.

Myanmar logistics firm Ever Flow River to list on March 20 The Myanmar Times 2nd Mar 2020
Ever Flow River Group Public Co (EFR) has received approval to list on the Yangon Stock Exchange (YSX) on March 20. EFR provides logistics services including shipping, air freight, warehousing, containerisation and distribution. The company plans to invest in and develop the country’s logistics infrastructure under the National Logistics Master Plan, while prioritizing the implementation of two key projects in Yangon and Mandalay.

Energy

Yoma’s green power project delivers electricity to tens of thousands in Myanmar Mizzima Myanmar News and Insight 15th Mar 2020
Yoma Micro Power has set up its 250th solar-hybrid power plant in rural Myanmar, with the innovative renewable energy plants expected to deliver power for the first time to an estimated 25,000 people across the country, according to a press release. Under a unique business model, Yoma Micro Power uses the solar-hybrid plants to generate and distribute affordable, reliable and clean energy to telecom towers, as well as deliver much needed energy to people not connected to the grid. After a successful pilot project that built 10 power plants in 2017-2018, Yoma Micro Power started the rollout to build 250 power plants in March last year. The success of this rollout demonstrates the scalability of Yoma Micro Power’s business model and the ability of such a business model to bring much needed Foreign Direct Investment (“FDI”) into the country to augment its electricity generation and distribution infrastructure.

Domestic investments touch K1,084 bln, $233.47 mln in current fiscal year Global New Light Of Myanmar 15th Mar 2020
Domestic investments by Myanmar citizens, including expansion of capital by existing enterprises, reached K1,084 billion and US$233.47 million as of 6 March in the 2019-2020 financial year, according to a press statement issued by the Myanmar Investment Commission (MIC). Domestic investments flowed into the real estate, manufacturing, hotels and tourism, construction, industrial estate, energy, mining, livestock and fisheries, agriculture, and other services sectors, according to the Directorate of Investment and Company Administration (DICA). To simplify the verification of investment projects, the Myanmar Investment Law allows the region and state Investment Committees to endorse local and foreign proposals, where the initial investment does not exceed K6 billion, or $5 million.

Myanmar builds a port for LNG tankers in Thilawa SEZ Eleven Media Group Co., Ltd 10th Mar 2020
The construction process of a port to dock LNG tankers to supply liquefied nature gas (LNG) for 350-megawatt LNG power plant in Thilawa SEZ is about 40 per cent finished, according to Ministry of Electricity and Energy. It is one of the electric power projects implemented by the ministry to fulfill the electricity requirement for 2020 summer. V-Power Co. Ltd. is building the power plant and the inspection team led by Khin Maung Win, Deputy Minister for Electricity and Energy went to check the power plant in first week of March.

Solar power gains ground in Sagaing The Myanmar Times 10th Mar 2020
A Norwegian fund-backed joint venture with Yoma Strategic has completed installing US$28 million worth of plants harnessing energy from the sun to generate electricity for Myanmar communities in remote areas. In Sagaing Region, Yoma Micro Power this month launched its 250th off-grid solar plant in Thint Sein Gyi village of Wetlet township. The $100,000 plant has a peak capacity of 31.2 kilowatt, providing power supply to around 1000 villagers. The expansion of mini-grids reflects the investment potential of renewable sources in Myanmar as the Southeast Asian country seeks to fill its energy deficit while battling climate change.

Financial Services

Myanmar Central Bank Cuts Interest Rates Another 1% to Aid Economy The Irrawaddy 25th Mar 2020
The Central Bank of Myanmar (CBM) has dropped interest rates by an additional 1 percent as the country’s economy has slowed due to the COVID-19 global pandemic. On March 24, CBM said that it will reduce its interest rate from 9.5 percent to 8.5 percent, effective on April 1, in the hope of spurring economic growth.

Banking on a cashless future The Myanmar Times 12th Mar 2020
In a joint statement after President U Win Myint’s meeting with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, a digital payment channel was set up using India’s RuPay card scheme in Myanmar. Since the agreement, interest in Myanmar’s digital payment system has grown. U Zaw Lin Htut, chief executive officer of the Myanmar Payment Union (MPU), talks about the challenges facing the country’s transition to online payments.

Insurers authorised to provide bancassurance in Myanmar The Myanmar Times 5th Mar 2020
Prudential Myanmar Life Insurance Limited(a subsidiary of UK-based Prudential plc) and Yoma Bank signed a memorandum of understanding allowing Yoma Bank to distribute Prudential Myanmar’s savings and protection products at its branches across the country, according to a release on March 5. The announcement comes after the Insurance Business Regulatory Board (IBRB) on March 4 released three directives, including one - Directive No 2/2020 - allowing banks and microfinance institutions to operate as agents selling insurance after obtaining approval from the Central Bank of Myanmar and Microfinance Business Supervisory Committee.This practice of bancassurance is expected to help insurance providers extend the reach of their products.

Foreign insurers added more than $120M to industry in Myanmar The Myanmar Times 3rd Mar 2020
In 2019, the Ministry of Planning, Finance, and Industry granted permission to five wholly foreign life insurance companies and six joint venture life insurance and non-life insurance companies to operate in the domestic insurance market. These investors have channeled some US$120 million and K60 billion into the Myanmar insurance sector since its liberalization last year. The five wholly foreign life insurance companies - AIA, Chubb, Dai-ichi, Manulife and Prudential - invested a sum totaling $65 million. The three joint venture life insurance companies – Capital Taiyo Life, CB Life and GGI Nippon Life- invested $34 million. The three joint venture non-life insurance companies – AYA Sompo, GGI Tokio Marine and KBZ MS – put in $26 million.

Food & Agriculture

Myanmar has enough food despite coronavirus fears Mizzima Myanmar News and Insight 18th Mar 2020
President Office spokesman Zaw Htay has said that Myanmar has enough food despite the fears over the coronavirus. Myanmar is one of the few countries in the world that has yet to register a case of the coronavirus that originated in China back in November 2019. Some travelers have been tested but no case has been registered yet.

Myanmar launches aquaculture roadmap The Myanmar Times 17th Mar 2020
The Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Irrigation launched the National Aquaculture Development Plan 2019-2023 on March 13. The plan aims to provide policy and institutional framework for sustainable development of Myanmar’s aquaculture sector. 

Fisheries exports not as badly hit as agriculture by virus The Myanmar Times 12th Mar 2020
“As the number of coronavirus cases started rising in China in January, exports of Myanmar’s fisheries products declined slightly in early February. Unlike with agricultural products, sales of fisheries products have not been as severely impacted,” said U Myint Than, head of the Fisheries Department, on Tuesday.

Myanmar lost 60% of mangrove forests in 20 years Futurity 5th Mar 2020
While many countries have established legal protection for mangroves, their value for sustainable ecosystem services face strong competition from converting the land to other more lucrative uses, particularly for agriculture. The team’s estimates revealed that in 1996, Myanmar had substantially more mangroves than previously estimated. However, over the 20-year period, more than 60% of all mangroves in Myanmar had been permanently or temporarily converted to other uses. These include the growing of rice, oil palm, and rubber, and for urbanization.

Health & Life Sciences

Working Committee holds meeting to address impact of COVID-19 on country’s economy Global New Light Of Myanmar 15th Mar 2020
The Working Committee to address the impact of Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) on the Country’s Economy was held at the Directorate of Investment and Company Administration (DICA) in Yangon yesterday. Speaking at the meeting, U Thaung Tun, Union Minister, Investment and Foreign Economic Relations and chair of the working committee, stressed that the Committee was formed to consider measures to address the negative impacts of the COVID-19 situation on the country’s economy. The meeting discussed short, medium and long term measures to respond to the COVID-19 crisis. The Working Committee also reviewed additional measures to be undertaken by the government, together with the private sector.

Myanmar to roll out advance in kidney-matching The Myanmar Times 12th Mar 2020
The National Health Laboratory (NHL) in Yangon Region will introduce a better way to match kidney donors and patients across the country over the next year, a senior laboratory official said. Dr Htay Htay Tin, NHL deputy director general, said the technique is called human leukocyte antigen typing and cross-matching and molecular cytogenetic technique. “The NHL is the only one testing tissue typing and cross matching for kidney transplant donors and patients in Myanmar,” she said. “We will begin introducing it this year.”

YCDC takes steps to make Yangon more livable The Myanmar Times 11th Mar 2020
Yangon City Development Council (YCDC) is moving to make Yangon a livable city by putting a bike lane and bike symbols on the Seikkanthar Street last month with the support of Yangon Heritage Trust (YHT). “We congratulate them for doing a good thing. It was YCDC’s decision and budget. They deserved to be congratulated for what they did,” Rupert Mann, programmes manager for Built and Cultural Heritage with the Yangon Heritage Trust told The Myanmar Times. Yangon Heritage Trust has been very interested in public grounds upgrade and upgrading the streets and parks. For quite a long time, YHT included ideas of having a bike lane in their Yangon heritage strategy which was written in 2015 for the new government. At least five years they have been trying to convince the authorities and try to help them to put bike lanes.

Myanmar legislator seeks to regulate e-cigarettes, water pipes The Myanmar Times 9th Mar 2020
Dr San Shwe Win, an MP and doctor in Ayeyarwady Region’s Yegyi township, has filed a bill seeking to regulate e-cigarettes and water pipes. His proposal aims to control the sale of vapes across the country and would require programmes to teach children about the dangers of vaping.  Five of the 10 ASEAN countries have prohibited e-cigarettes, and the remaining four have taken measures to regulate it. Myanmar is the only ASEAN member that has not taken any action against vaping, he said.

Singapore sends coronavirus test kits to Myanmar The Straits Times 4th Mar 2020
The Singapore Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) said on March 4 that the Government has contributed 3,000 diagnostic tests and two polymerase chain reaction (PCR) machines to test for Covid-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus. MFA said the contribution was in response to a request from the Myanmar Ministry of Health and Sports.

Govt names second marine protected area in Tanintharyi The Myanmar Times 2nd Mar 2020
The Fisheries Department declared a second marine protected area in Tanintharyi Region to protect endangered fish species and marine habitats. The new conservation area covers the coastal waters between Kawthoung township and Kau-ye Island, the department said in a statement. Myanmar Marine Fisheries Law prohibits commercial fishing in the protected zone, and villagers living there must engage only in regulated and sustainable fishing. 

Infrastructure

China committed to investing in Myanmar despite COVID-19 pandemic: Ambassador The Myanmar Times 30th Mar 2020
China will support Myanmar economically and continue its infrastructure push in the country despite the setbacks caused by COVID-19, China’s ambassador to Myanmar, Chen Hai, told The Myanmar Times during an exclusive interview. Just last week, the foreign ministry announced that China would provide US$6.78 million to Myanmar for 22 projects under the Beijing-led initiative Mekong-Lancang Cooperation. When asked what major challenges Chinese companies faced when investing in Myanmar, Ambassador Chen Hai referenced underdeveloped infrastructure, and efficiency, nothing though that Myanmar has made great effort to cultivate a more welcoming investment climate.

EIA process for Kyaukphyu port to start The Myanmar Times 11th Mar 2020
Chinese state-owned CITIC is set to initiate bidding for its environmental impact assessment (EIA) consultant for its port project in central Rakhine following the environmental ministry’s response to its project proposal. The Ministry of Natural Resources and Environmental Protection (MONREC) last month designated the Kyaukphyu deep-sea port project as an EIA-type project after screening the proposal submitted by the consortium led by CITIC in September 2019. Through a bidding process, the consortium will choose an independent consultant to conduct EIA, the statement said. After the selection, it will have to submit the information of such a third party for the ministry’s further verification before an EIA could officially take place.

Four-lane elevated expressway to build in the middle of roads mostly in Ygn Eleven Media Group Co., Ltd 10th Mar 2020
Four-lane elevated expressway will be built in the middle of roads mostly in Yangon and it will be like a long bridge in the middle of road, according to the Ministry of Construction.The expressway will be crossed Upper Pazuntaung Road, Wayzayantar Road, Thudama Road, at the junction of Khayaypin Road and Lower Mingalardon Road. The project is jointly developed by Ministry of Construction and Yangon Region government.

Upgrades for Thandwe airport runway The Myanmar Times 9th Mar 2020
The upgrade of Thandwe airport in Rakhine State (local airport to Ngapali Beach- a major tourist destination), a project listed under the Myanmar Project Bank, has commenced with work on extending the runway already taking place, said U Zaw Min, director of the Department of Civil Aviation. The US$5 million runway will enable it to handle commercial Airbus and Boeing planes after it is complete in 2021. Currently, it is only able to service ATR 72/500 and Emirate aircraft.

Locals voice approval for Yangon Elevated Expressway The Myanmar Times 5th Mar 2020
Yangon Elevated Expressway will begin construction in August. Deputy Director of the Highway Department under the Ministry of Construction has met with locals and addressed their concerns, including noise pollution and potential flooding in areas under the expressway. Compensation will be provided to those affected by construction. The winning bidder for the project will be announced in May, after which a ground-breaking ceremony will be held in July. The expressway will be put into operation by May 2025.

Firms invited to bid for upgrade of Yangon-Mandalay expressway The Myanmar Times 5th Mar 2020
The Ministry of Construction will invite Expressions of Interest from the private sector for the upgrading of the Yangon–Mandalay Expressway, U Han Zaw, Minister of Construction said. The project involves upgrading the 524 -km expressway, currently the most important transport route in Myanmar, to a international-standard expressway with proper safety and road control facilities.The project is one of the 58 national development projects listed in the Myanmar Project Bank.

Laos

Viettel Rolls Out Nationwide 5G-ready Timing Solution with ADVA Bloomberg.com 20th Mar 2020
ADVA (FSE:ADV) and NEC Corporation announced that Viettel, a global telecommunications service provider based in Vietnam, has deployed ADVA's Oscilloquartz timing solution throughout Laos and Myanmar to provide nationwide 4G services and prepare its synchronization network for 5G. The technology enables Viettel to smoothly transition its legacy timing infrastructure, deliver 4G coverage to more mobile subscribers and lay the foundations for next-generation services. Installed and maintained by NEC, the new solution is built on ADVA's OSA 3230B primary reference cesium clock (PRC) for assured and precise synchronization with or without GNSS. It also features ADVA's versatile ultra-compact synchronization supply units (SSUs) with high-capacity PTP modules for grandmaster clock functionality.

Manufacturing

Auto industry seeks easing of duties on car components The Myanmar Times 9th Mar 2020
The local automotive industry has requested the Ministry of Planning, Finance and Industry for a reduction in duties on cars assembled in the country. The duties imposed on components for semi-knocked down (SKD) and completely knocked down (CKD) vehicles assembled in Myanmar are the same as those imposed on completely built up vehicles imported into the country. Promotion of SKD auto manufacturing can help the country move up the value chain into CKD, as noted by a senior official in the Minstry. On another issue faced by the automotive sector, the Ministry of Commerce said on March 8 that it will be allowing the renewal of vehicle import permits that are set to expire this month.

Trade Unions demand government check garment factory claims Mizzima News 4th Mar 2020
The Federation of Trade Unions and trade union activists demanded the government check the authenticity of claims from the garment industry that there was a shortage of raw materials at factories. A press release jointly issued on February 27 by Union of Myanmar Federation of Commerce and Industry (UMFCCI) and Entrepreneurs Association, said it may have to lay off workers amid a temporary closure of factories in the garment industry due to the Covid 19 epidemic in China which caused production to shut down because of a shortage of raw materials.

Travel & Tourism

Myanmar stops all int’l commercial flights from landing The Myanmar Times 29th Mar 2020
Myanmar is no longer allowing the landing of all international commercial passenger flights in all Myanmar airports to prevent the importation of COVID-19 via air travel, according to a March 29 notice from the Department of Civil Aviation (DCA), with reference to a directive from the Ministry of Health and Sports. The measure is effective at 11:59pm March 30 until 11:59pm April 13. However, the measures will not affect relief flights, medical evacuation flights, all-cargo flights, and special flights which received approval from the DCA.

Myanmar suspends all types of visas for foreign nationals to contain Covid-19 The Star Online 29th Mar 2020
Myanmar's Foreign Affairs Ministry announced temporary suspension of all types of visas for foreign nationals from all countries with effect from March 29 till April 30 as part of measures to control the risks of Covid-19. However, this does not affect diplomats accredited to Myanmar, United Nations officials resident in Myanmar and crew of ships and aircraft operating to and from Myanmar.

Coronavirus: Manipur Closes Border With Myanmar To Curb Deadly Transmission News Nation 10th Mar 2020
Amid coronavirus scare, the government of Manipur on Monday decided to close the international border with Myanmar which also includes gate no 1 and 2 in Moreh. “In view of possible threat of transmission of coronavirus (COVID-19), Government of Manipur hereby prohibits movement of people across the international border and accordingly orders closures of Gate No. 1 and Gate No. 2, Moreh and other crossing points along Manipur sector of Indo-Myanmar border until further orders”, the government order states.