Myanmar Update: May 29, 2020

Myanmar Update | May 29, 2020
Authors: Jack Myint & Ingyin
 
THE COUNCIL'S TAKE
 
 

World Bank Launches Country Partnership Framework for Myanmar

In the spirit of providing continued economic and social support for Myanmar, the World Bank Group has launched a Country Partnership Framework (CPF) to guide through the years 2020 to 2023. The new partnership was announced on May 18, and comes at a time Myanmar is set to undergo another round of complex transitions later this year, combined with the unprecedented effects of COVID-19.

The CPF prioritizes social inclusion and as such, focuses on three key goals to be met in the next three years: building human capital and fostering peaceful communities, guiding private sector-led initiatives to create economic opportunities, and ensuring disaster preparedness while practicing sustainable resource management. These benchmarks are organized to address the unique set of challenges Myanmar is set to face-- issues stemming from the conflict-prone Northern Rakhine region and other areas in the country experiencing armed conflict, political transitions characterized by uncertainty, and the economic ramifications of COVID-19. Already, economic growth is expected to decline to 2%-3%, from the pre-pandemic projections of 6.7% for 2020- 2021.

The new partnership also welcomes assistance from the International Finance Corporation (IFC) which will take charge on job creation in the agriculture, infrastructure, and tourism sectors.  This would ensure better access to finances for SMEs, which make up around 99% of businesses in Myanmar.

Last month, the World Bank announced its lending of US$ 50 million to the Myanmar COVID-19 Emergency Response Project; the funding is to be directed to eight central hospitals, and 43 state and region level hospitals in densely populated areas. Funds from current and future projects are also being contemplated to be directed instead to Myanmar’s economic recovery plans.

Myanmar on EU’s Money-Laundering List

On May 7, the European Commission released a series of measures to better enhance its work to fight against money laundering and terrorist financing. The three key action items are as follows:

  • Developing a comprehensive action plan on EU Policy for money laundering and terrorist financing;

  • A more efficient method to identify risk countries

  • An updated list of high-risk countries.

In the news release, the Commission added Myanmar, along with 11 other new countries to its list of high-risk third countries, effective October 1; the other countries include The Bahamas, Barbados, Botswana, Cambodia, Ghana, Jamaica, Mauritius, Mongolia, Nicaragua, Panama, and Zimbabwe. The 12 new countries on the list lack strategic procedures to address money laundering, and other financial wrongdoings. The move signifies that banks and financial institutions can subject their clients doing business in the listed countries to enhanced scrutiny and vetting. This proves to be a hurdle for the burgeoning Myanmar financial economy as international banks with an interest in the country now view the placement as an added risk factor. Currently, twenty foreign banks have been granted licenses to operate locally, although no bank with headquarters in Europe is included.

Working closely with the Financial Action Task Force (FATF)- an IGO whose purpose is to combat money laundering and terrorist financing, the Commission, in principle, includes third countries listed by the FATF; in fact, Myanmar was included in the FATF’s watchlist in March 2020. To read the Council's analysis on Myanmar's inclusion in the FATF's watchlist, please click here. The EU press release also states that it would provide assistance to those high-risk third countries through a demand-driven approach—countries will need to assess their situation and request assistance by adhering to the framework of external aid policies of the Commission.

Myanmar’s General Elections to Take Place as Planned

COVID-19 has prompted concerns that the November 2020 general election - the third of its kind in six decades - might be affected. The previous two have been traditionally held in November, with the announcement of election day dates taking place three or four months ahead. In this regard, a spokesperson for the Union Election Commission (UEC) has told the state-run radio that it is likely that the same would follow suit this year. Constitutionally, the general election must be held before January 21, 2021 and as such, the UEC would need to plan accordingly.

After a landslide victory in 2015, the National League for Democracy (NLD) led by State Counsellor Daw Aung San Su Kyi is expected to take the lead again this year, although tensions in the military-civilian relationship have yet to improve. This proves a major legislative challenge for the NLD government as the military controls 25% of all parliamentary seats and has an effective veto power over any major amendment. The Union Solidarity Development Party (USDP), the current opposition party made up of former Tatmadaw (Myanmar military) leaders is set to challenge the NLD in almost every parliamentary seat across the country. Also among the forefront of the electoral stage this year is the People’s Pioneer Party (PPP) comprised of around a thousand members and led by Dr. Thet Thet Khine- a former legislator for the NLD; she has said that the PPP would adopt the framework of achieving and protecting the welfare of the Myanmar people, improving the economy, and shifting focus away from reliance on a single leader. In addition, former Speaker of the Pyithu Hluttaw (Lower House), Thura U Shwe Mann has also founded the Union Betterment Party, which is running on a platform of improving the economy and promoting ethnic inclusivity. Ethnic parties will also be running alongside the more well-known groups, aiming to bring voices of the minority to the forefront of Myanmar politics.   

Myanmar Liberalizes Import of Foreign Liquor

On May 25, the Myanmar Ministry of Commerce announced that the current policies regarding banned import goods have been amended, adding beer and cigarettes to the list while authorizing the import of foreign liquor - an act that overwrites Notification 8-2013 bill. With intent to encourage the sale of certified quality goods, meet domestic demand, limit illegal imports and increase tax revenue, the policy should give rise to import quantities from foreign producers. 

The partial liberalization imposes a minimum of US$8 per liter for costs, insurance and freight, to be eligible for import via Yangon ship ports and International Airport; these measures combined with tax expenses would protect its local manufacturers from foreign competition and provide a fair playing field. The Council's comprehensive analysis addressing the Ministry's directive on the import of foreign liquor is forthcoming. 

 
IN THIS UPDATE
 
 
National Affairs
YGN outer ring road to connect YGN-MDY highway to Dala through Thilawa SEZ
Govt allows restaurants to reopen with strict guidelines in Myanmar
COVID-19 in Myanmar douses election fever
New bill aims to update Myanmar’s communicable diseases law
Myanmar to Double Health Spending to Supply Free Medicines
Myanmar to invite tenders for solar power: MOEE
Myanmar Government Promises Cash to Families Hit by COVID-19
Drug bust in Myanmar nets haul likely worth hundreds of millions of dollars
Amyotha Hluttaw discusses landholding permits, ethnic youths & literature
Reasons for optimism in Myanmar’s coronavirus fight
Myanmar to Reopen Schools in July with COVID-19 Challenges
Myanmar’s Major Cities to Ease Some COVID-19 Business Restrictions
First batch of 10,000 UNICEF COVID-19 test kits handed over to Health & Sports Ministry

Economics
Myanmar receives approval to seek funds from IMF, JICA
World Bank pledges to support economic reform in Myanmar
Myanmar GDP estimate to be slightly reduced

Energy
Households in Myanmar exempt from first 150 units of electricity in May
Kyunchaung gas power plant project to be completed soon
PTTEP pledges to continue gas production work in Myanmar

Financial Services
Microfinance institutions in Myanmar face COVID-19 cash flow crisis
Myanmar permits reinsurance, new categories for general insurance  

Food & Agriculture
Govt to create agri and rural jobs to support farmers under CERP
Myanmar exports over 600,000 tonnes of corns in current fiscal H1

Health & Life Sciences
Govt to vaccinate health workers for flu in Myanmar
To alert double infection of COVID-19 and dengue virus in coming months
MoHS, Tatmadaw medical corps take body temperature with mobile infrared thermal detection units
Govt cancels immunisation in strife-torn areas in Rakhine
Myanmar to Introduce Tougher Law to Control Communicable Diseases
Govt ministries allocate 10pc of budgets for COVID-19 fund
Officials conduct door-to-door virus sweep in Insein
Tatmadaw transit centres providing healthcare services to COVID-19 quarantined persons
MoHS discuss healthcare plans for monsoon common diseases
Early estimates of the indirect effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on maternal and child mortality in low-income and middle-income countries: a modelling study
We need a Financial Stability Board for health

ICT
Myanmar operators to block access to more websites, domains, IP addresses
Govt eases internet blackout in Rakhine
Apple expands services to Myanmar
Millions in Myanmar risk having mobile phones cut off after SIM registration deadline
Asia Digest: Dakota Ventures to invest $1m in Myanmar; Vietnam's FoodHub raises funding
Alibaba fintech arm invests $73m in Myanmar's Digital Money

Infrastructure
Singapore Agency to Help Myanmar Find Partners for Key Infrastructure Projects
Myanmar To Build Two Earth Observation Satellites With Japanese Assistance 
China Pushes BRI Projects As Myanmar Rolls Out COVID-19 Economic Relief Plan
Union Construction Minister inspects upgrading of Yangon-Pathein road via video meeting
Quality must prevail in post-pandemic infrastructure development

Manufacturing
MFPTMA requests tax reduction for export of lumbers, finished products

Travel & Tourism
Myanmar Tourism Sector Braced for 50% Job Cuts Amid COVID-19 Downturn
 
ARTICLE CLIPS
 
 
National Affairs

YGN outer ring road to connect YGN-MDY highway to Dala through Thilawa SEZ Global New Light Of Myanmar 20th May 2020
A highway outside of Yangon will be constructed to connect Yangon-Mandalay highway to Dala through Thilawa Special Economic Zone, according to an announcement of the Ministry of Construction. The project is to be implemented by the Ministry of Construction with the spending of loans from the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), according to a report released by the Ministry of Construction on 18 May.

Govt allows restaurants to reopen with strict guidelines in Myanmar The Myanmar Times 20th May 2020
Food stalls and tea shops in all townships in regions and states and Nay Pyi Taw, excluding those townships under the stay-home measure, will be allowed to reopen according to the ministry’s instructions, National Level Committee on COVID-19 Prevention, Control and Treatment announced on May 19. The guidelines include placing a handwashing sink and sanitisers at the entrance and a partition placed to separate customers and the distance between those who will be dining-in must be in accordance with the guidelines.

COVID-19 in Myanmar douses election fever The Myanmar Times 20th May 2020
The ruling National League for Democracy (NLD) and the main opposition Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) have yet to focus on the election campaign. The Union Election Commission (UEC) has confirmed that the election will be held this year despite COVID-19. More than 37 million people are eligible to vote in this year’s elections, the UEC said.

New bill aims to update Myanmar’s communicable diseases law The Myanmar Times 19th May 2020
The health ministry on May 18 submitted to parliament a new bill aimed at controlling communicable diseases. Health Minister U Myint Htwe said the bill would update the 1995 Prevention and Control of Communicable Diseases Law. The new bill’s 11 chapters and 51 sections outline “control and containment measures regarding the current COVID-19 crisis that weren’t included in the previous law,” he said. Health experts said the bill could help the country come up with preventative measures against communicable diseases in line with the WHO’s 2005 International Health Regulations.

Myanmar to Double Health Spending to Supply Free Medicines The Irrawaddy 19th May 2020
The Ministry of Health and Sports will double its expenditure on health care to provide free medicine at public hospitals, according to minister Dr. Myint Htwe. The ministry will increase its health expenditure to 300 billion kyats (US$216 million) starting from the next fiscal year that will start in October to provide free medicine as the numbers seeking treatment at public hospitals has increased year by year, he said.

Myanmar to invite tenders for solar power: MOEE The Myanmar Times 18th May 2020
The Ministry of Electricity and Energy (MOEE) will invite local and foreign investors to tender for a solar power plant project, said U Soe Myint, Deputy Permanent Secretary at the ministry. The Independent Power Plant should be able to generate 1000 megawatts of solar power, which the government would purchase based on a 20-year Build-Operate-Own system, he said. This could include more than one plant. Those interested in making the investment will be asked to submit proposals not later than June 18. The application cost is K300,000.

Myanmar Government Promises Cash to Families Hit by COVID-19 The Irrawaddy 18th May 2020
Myanmar’s government says it will soon provide cash assistance for those struggling across the country because of COVID-19. The government distributed rice, cooking oil, salt, beans and onions to nearly 4 million households who lacked a regular income during the 10-day New Year holiday last month at a reported cost of around 50 billion kyats (US$36 million).

Drug bust in Myanmar nets haul likely worth hundreds of millions of dollars CNN 18th May 2020
Myanmar police have made Asia's biggest drug bust in decades, seizing hundreds of millions of dollars worth of contraband including "unprecedented" amounts of methylfentanyl, a chemical used to make a dangerously potent synthetic opioid. The seizures announced Monday were conducted during a three-month operation that centered around Lwe Kham village in Kutkhai Township in Myanmar's northeast Shan state. Thirty-three suspects were arrested.

Amyotha Hluttaw discusses landholding permits, ethnic youths & literature Global New Light Of Myanmar 18th May 2020
The first day meeting of the Second Amyotha Hluttaw’s 16th regular session took place in Nay Pyi Taw yesterday morning. Firstly, Tatmadaw Amyotha Hluttaw candidates took the oath of office in the presence of Amyotha Hluttaw Speaker Mahn Win Khaing Than.

Reasons for optimism in Myanmar’s coronavirus fight Frontier Myanmar 18th May 2020
When the World Health Organization issued its first COVID-19 situation report, on January 21, a total of 282 people had been infected by the virus. In the 56 days to May 17, Myanmar had reported 187 confirmed cases, six deaths, the recovery of 97 patients, and 84 active cases. Myanmar has had fewer confirmed cases than many other countries and, despite limited testing, the spread of the virus seems outwardly to be under control. The response measures introduced by national, state and region, and local authorities to prevent the spread of the coronavirus are many and varied. It is too early to say that the COVID-19 threat has passed. The Myanmar response to COVID-19 has not been perfect, and a range of other factors may have helped to reduce the transmission of the virus, but the grim predictions that some were making have not yet materialised, and this gives reason for optimism.

Myanmar to Reopen Schools in July with COVID-19 Challenges The Irrawaddy 15th May 2020
The Myanmar government is preparing to reopen basic education schools in July and will release exam results before schools reopen, Basic Education Department Director-General U Ko Lay Win told The Irrawaddy. In Myanmar, the academic year usually starts in June and ends in March, with schools closing for summer holidays from March to June, and exam results are normally released in mid-April. Due to the COVID-19 crisis, the government decided to postpone the start of the school year until July.

Myanmar’s Major Cities to Ease Some COVID-19 Business Restrictions The Irrawaddy 14th May 2020
Myanmar’s hardest-hit region for COVID-19, Yangon, will ease some restrictions in four townships as no new cases have been reported for 20 days, State Counselor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi said on Wednesday. The townships – Mingaladon, Hlaing Tharyar, Shwepyitha and Botahtaung – are among the country’s 10 COVID-19 hotspots which are currently under semi-lockdown

First batch of 10,000 UNICEF COVID-19 test kits handed over to Health & Sports Ministry Global New Light Of Myanmar 10th May 2020
The first batch of 10,000 test kits procured by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) with the support from GAVI (the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization), were handed over to the Ministry of Health and Sports shortly after arrival at the Yangon International Airport yesterday. As international commercial flights remain temporarily suspended as part of the measures to contain the spread of the COVID-19, the World Food Programme (WFP), on behalf of the United Nations in Myanmar, is launching a series of humanitarian flights linking Yangon and Kuala Lumpur to bring in humanitarian cargo and personnel. Financial support from the European Union and Switzerland has made it possible for WFP to establish the first stage of the humanitarian flight service linking Yangon with Kuala Lumpur on a weekly basis. Each flight can bring to Myanmar up to two metric tons of humanitarian cargo.

Economics

Myanmar receives approval to seek funds from IMF, JICA The Myanmar Times 27th May 2020
Myanmar will seek financial assistance from the IMF as well as from its international development partners, including JICA. In fact, the country on May 26 also received parliament approval to take an emergency loan totaling 30 billion yen from JICA to fund its response to COVID-19. Terms include a 40 year pay-back period, which includes a 10-year grace period, at an interest rate of 0.01pc. The Ministry of Planning, Finance and Industry will manage the funds on behalf of government. Myanmar has already received $50 million from the World Bank and on May 26 said it will receive $200 million more for agriculture.

World Bank pledges to support economic reform in Myanmar The Myanmar Times 19th May 2020
The World Bank will support Myanmar under a new country partnership framework from 2020 to 2023, it said on May 18. The framework will focus on three areas - building human capital and fostering peaceful communities, stimulating responsible private sector-led growth and inclusive economic opportunities, and enhancing the resilience of Myanmar to cope with natural disasters while ensuring that natural resources and the environment are managed sustainably.

Myanmar GDP estimate to be slightly reduced The Myanmar Times 18th May 2020
The estimated GDP for the current fiscal year of 2019-20 will be slightly reduced, said U Maung Maung Win, Deputy Minister for Planning, Finance and Industry. Myanmar's fiscal deficit to GDP ratio will be decreased to 5.5 percent from 5.7pc. Tax revenues expected over the next four months of the current fiscal year is expected to total K506 billion, resulting in tax to GDP of 7.1pc from 6.7pc.

Energy

Households in Myanmar exempt from first 150 units of electricity in May The Myanmar Times 26th May 2020
Households will be exempted from paying for the first 150 units of electricity consumed for the month of May, according to Ministry of Electricity and Energy. This government incentive started in April where households were exempted from paying for the first 150 units of electricity as a form of relief from the economic fallout from COVID-19. However, the exemption does not apply to foreign embassies, UN agencies and international organisations.

Kyunchaung gas power plant project to be completed soon Global New Light Of Myanmar 3rd May 2020
The 20.54MW gas power plant project in Kyunchaung is going to be finished soon. As the current running gas turbine has been used for many years, its capacity reduces to only 4MW, said U Myo Thiha, chief engineer of Kyunchaung power plant. The electricity produced by Kyunchaung gas power plant is supplying to the national grid.

PTTEP pledges to continue gas production work in Myanmar The Myanmar Times 27th Apr 2020
Thai oil and gas company PTT Exploration and Production (PTTEP) will continue to execute its 2020 Economic Plan, which includes work in Myanmar. PTTEP is the operator of the Zawtika natural gas project, which includes the development of the Zawtika, Kakonna and Gawthaka gas fields located in blocks M9 and M11 of the Gulf of Martaban, offshore of Myanmar. PTTEP owns an 80 percent interest in the project, with Myanma Oil and Gas Enterprise (MOGE) holds the remaining 20pc.

Financial Services

Microfinance institutions in Myanmar face COVID-19 cash flow crisis The Myanmar Times 26th May 2020
Travel restrictions and government orders to defer repayments and lend at lower interest rates have reduced the ability of microfinance institutions (MFIs) in Myanmar to operate at a time when there is a pressing need for capital from the rural population due to COVID-19. The inability to collect repayments from some borrowers has led to road bumps in liquidity and cash flows for MFIs, and this, in turn, has limited the lenders' capacity to extend financing to others. Since Myanmar enacted the Microfinance Law in 2011, lending by MFIs has become the biggest source of financing for the rural economy. There are almost 200 licensed MFIs, serving an estimated 5.5 million clients in Myanmar.

Myanmar permits reinsurance, new categories for general insurance   The Myanmar Times 14th May 2020
Myanmar has permitted the business of reinsurance and three new categories of general insurance in the country under two new directives - (4/2020) and (6/2020) - issued by the Insurance Business Regulatory Board (IBRB) on May 12. The three new categories are: Industrial All Risk, Construction All Risk/ Erection All Risk, and Bailee’s Liability Insurance. The aim is to widen insurance coverage in the country. “Whether local or foreign, businesses need insurance coverage under these three categories.

Food & Agriculture

Govt to create agri and rural jobs to support farmers under CERP The Myanmar Times 14th May 2020
Jobs in agriculture and construction will be made available to the unemployed under the COVID-19 Economic Relief Plan (CERP), the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Irrigation (MoALI) announced on May 13. To yield jobs, MoALI will harness a total of 400,000 acres of farmland on which it will work under a a joint venture with the Myanmar Rice Federation to produce seeds for planting. This will take up half the land. The remaining half will be used for the growing and harvesting of crops. Funds are expected to come from the government budget as well as international financing.

Myanmar exports over 600,000 tonnes of corns in current fiscal H1 Global New Light Of Myanmar 10th May 2020
Myanmar has exported more than 600,000 tonnes of corns to China and Thailand through borders in the H1 of the current financial year 2019-2020, the Commerce Ministry’s data indicated. Additionally, Myanmar exports corn to India, Viet Nam, Malaysia, Singapore and the Philippines through maritime trade. Yet, the volume of corn exports to those markets is quite small.

Health & Life Sciences

Govt to vaccinate health workers for flu in Myanmar The Myanmar Times 27th May 2020
The Health and Sports Ministry will vaccinate its 110,000 health workers against seasonal influenza starting in June in preparation for the rainy season when the disease is most common, a senior official said. The vaccine is expected to cost about US$4 (K5600) per person. The ministry has also vaccinated all health workers against hepatitis B, measles and rubella. The ministry urged high-risk groups, such as pregnant women and children aged six months to five years, people aged over 65, and those who have diseases such as diabetes, cardiovascular and chronic respiratory illness, to be vaccinated for seasonal influenza yearly.

To alert double infection of COVID-19 and dengue virus in coming months Global New Light Of Myanmar 23rd May 2020
While fighting with the spread of coronavirus, we will have to struggle to cope with dengue fever outbreak which occurs in the rainy season. It is a great encouragement to know that frontline health workers and volunteers are carrying out activities to prevent larvae formation and kill mosquitoes in populated areas these days. It is best to prevent rather than to treat, and public health awareness is key for prevention. Meanwhile, government investment in public health to promote a healthy lifestyle among the public and proper sanitation facilities at public places is also paramount.

MoHS, Tatmadaw medical corps take body temperature with mobile infrared thermal detection units Global New Light Of Myanmar 23rd May 2020
Mobile teams of Ministry of Health and Sports and the Tatmadaw medical corps used vehicles installed with infrared thermal detection units in taking body temperature of people in Mayangon Township in Yangon yesterday morning, as a move to prevent transmission of COVID-19 among the public. The Public Health and Medical Services Department of Yangon Region led in using these vehicles in wards 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5 of Mayangon Township, out of 10 residential quarters, while other combined teams carried out door to door medical tests.

Govt cancels immunisation in strife-torn areas in Rakhine The Myanmar Times 19th May 2020
Health workers cancelled the annual immunisation programme in war-torn areas in Rakhine State over safety fears, a senior state health official said. Dr Sai Win Zaw Hlaing, chief of the State Public Health Department, said health workers will not go into areas where there are clashes due to safety concerns.

Myanmar to Introduce Tougher Law to Control Communicable Diseases The Irrawaddy 18th May 2020
Myanmar’s Union minister of health and sports submitted a draft of the new Prevention and Control of Communicable Diseases Law to the Lower House of Parliament on Monday. The law is aimed at improving the government’s effectiveness in preventing and controlling outbreaks of infectious disease. The bill was written to replace the country’s outdated law on communicable diseases enacted in 1995.

Govt ministries allocate 10pc of budgets for COVID-19 fund The Myanmar Times 11th May 2020
A total of 22 government ministries have submitted 10 percent of their allocated 2019-20 budgets to help fund Myanmar's COVID-19 Economic Response Plan (CERP) for cabinet approval, said Daw Thida Tun, director general of Budget Department, Ministry of Planning, Finance and Industry. "We instructed the ministries to set aside 10pc for their budgets this fiscal year for the CERP. Some departments may submit less than 10pc as their funds are necessary for national development. For example, income tax revenues will not be approved for the fund," she said.

Officials conduct door-to-door virus sweep in Insein The Myanmar Times 6th May 2020
Health authorities conducted a door-to-door anti-COVID-19 sweep in four wards of Insein township in Yangon Region where 29 cases of the virus have been found, the township health officer said. Dr Naw Thandar Swe, chief of the Insein Health Department, said that people who showed symptoms of the disease such as fever, cough and sore throat were sent for medical check-ups.

Tatmadaw transit centres providing healthcare services to COVID-19 quarantined persons Global New Light Of Myanmar 6th May 2020
Transit centres of Defence Service in Nay Pyi Taw and Hline Township in Yangon are providing quarantined persons for COVID-19 disease with accommodations and medical services. On 5 May, the Transit Centre in Nay Pyi Taw accommodated 6 men returned from China, another 6 men and 5 women from border towns Muse, Laukai, Lwejwel, Myawady and Kengtung, while the Transit Centre in Hline Township received 4 men and 1 woman returned from China, 4 men came back from Thailand and 1 man from Laukai.

MoHS discuss healthcare plans for monsoon common diseases Global New Light Of Myanmar 5th May 2020
Union Minister for Health and Sports Dr Myint Htwe presided over a meeting yesterday through video conferencing about prevention and precautions of most monsoon common diseases amid the ministry’s measures against COVID-19. The Union Minister discussed preparations for reduction of death rate from most monsoon common diseases as there were a total of 80,000 dengue fever cases from 2017 to 2019, with the death rate of 450 in total.

Early estimates of the indirect effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on maternal and child mortality in low-income and middle-income countries: a modelling study The Lancet Global Health 14th May 2020
While the COVID-19 pandemic will increase mortality due to the virus, it is also likely to increase mortality indirectly. In this study, we estimate the additional maternal and under-5 child deaths resulting from the potential disruption of health systems and decreased access to food. Our least severe scenario (coverage reductions of 9·8–18·5% and wasting increase of 10%) over 6 months would result in 253 500 additional child deaths and 12 200 additional maternal deaths. Our most severe scenario (coverage reductions of 39·3–51·9% and wasting increase of 50%) over 6 months would result in 1 157 000 additional child deaths and 56 700 additional maternal deaths.

We need a Financial Stability Board for health Financial Times 14th May 2020
We have invested in building resilience in our financial system, but not in our global health system. That must change. The World Health Organization’s handling of the pandemic has been heavily criticised. The solution is not to cut the WHO — it’s to reinforce it. What the world needs is a second international organisation to work alongside the WHO with a singular focus on preparedness, response and management of threats to global health. There is already a successful model. As we confront Covid-19, we are relearning many of the lessons that emerged from the bitter experience of the 2008 financial crisis. Among them: we are more interdependent than ever. The consequences of underinvesting in resilience can be catastrophic. And everything moves faster than we imagined.

ICT

Myanmar operators to block access to more websites, domains, IP addresses Telecompaper 21st May 2020
Telenor Myanmar, along with all other mobile operators in Myanmar, has announced it has received a directive from the Posts and Telecommunications Department (PTD) to block access to 3 websites, 6 domains and 2 IP addresses. The measure is designed to block the use of "hate speech", as well as protect against cyber-attacks and data theft.

Govt eases internet blackout in Rakhine The Myanmar Times 3rd May 2020
Internet access in Maungdaw was permitted again after the forming of a committee by the President Office on April 29 to investigate an attack on a World Health Organisation vehicle, killing the driver.  Internet access in Maungdaw, Buthidaung, Rathaedaung, Ponnagyun, Kyauktaw, Mrauk U, Minbya, Myebontownships in Rakhine and Paletwa township in Chin State have been cut off since June 2019 to prevent rebel armed groups from getting organised online after intensified clashes between them and the Tatmadaw (military).The shutdown of internet access is a concern for the people, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, when information is crucial. The loss of access to social networks  are  a serious threat especially in the war-torn areas.

Apple expands services to Myanmar Mizzima Myanmar 3rd May 2020
Apple has announced expanding its services to 20 more countries and regions,and making Apple Music available in an additional 52 countries including Myanmar. The App Store, Apple Arcade, Apple Music, Apple Podcasts, and iCloud are now available in Myanmar. "We're delighted to bring many of Apple's most beloved services to users in more countries than ever before," Apple vice president of Apple Music and International Content Oliver Schusser said.

Millions in Myanmar risk having mobile phones cut off after SIM registration deadline The Myanmar Times 29th Apr 2020
Unless the deadline is extended the operators will block the calls and data of users not in compliance this week. The Posts and Telecommunications Department (PTD) set the April 30 deadline back in February - before the COVID-19 outbreak was declared a pandemic. SIM cards not re-registered by June 30 may be permanently shut off. An official reminder to register was issued on April 16 and the authorities have made no move to extend the deadline even though many communities in rural areas would struggle to find a retailer to carry out the registration and the mobility of urban residents is limited by the lockdown. PTD assistant director Daw Aye Myint San confirmed that the deadline is April 30. After that date, she said, users would still be able to access websites and applications for registration purposes.

Asia Digest: Dakota Ventures to invest $1m in Myanmar; Vietnam's FoodHub raises funding DealStreetAsia 20th May 2020
Dakota Ventures, a Myanmar-focused Southeast Asian asset management company, plans to invest $1 million in synergistic and millennial-focused startups in the Burmese market. The firm, which operates Kaplan Myanmar University College and Gohanya, a central kitchen for Japanese cuisine catering in Yangon, said it will continue to identify investment opportunities in education, consumer and infrastructure projects in the region. Despite being a nascent tech market, Myanmar has also seen the fallouts of the COVID-19 pandemic in terms of accelerating digital adoption, especially amongst the young millennial generation who are turning to online lessons, streaming content and mobile gaming during the lockdown period. In addition to education and food distribution, Dakota Ventures has also invested in F&B equipment and solutions as well as eSports. Dakota Ventures added it aimed to leverage digital innovation to rejuvenate traditional businesses, helping foreign companies “invest safely in the fast-growing Myanmar market, with clear exit pathways.” The firm has also sealed a strategic partnership with Israeli-headquartered cybersecurity firm Cybint to establish what it claims would be “Myanmar’s first-ever cyber training centre.” “With more essential services going digital, cybersecurity takes on a bigger importance in safeguarding vital operations,” opined Daryl Teo, managing director of Dakota Ventures. The facility will begin construction in June 2020 and targets to provide 500 certified cyber professionals by the end of 2022, before scaling up to 10,000 digital specialists by 2025. In addition, Dakota Ventures will join forces with the Financial Planner Association of Singapore to conduct flagship certified financial planner (CFP) courses in Myanmar for agents and managers.

Alibaba fintech arm invests $73m in Myanmar's Digital Money Nikkei Asian Review 18th May 2020
The Chinese company behind the Alipay smartphone payment system said on May 18 that it will take a stake in Digital Money Myanmar to cater to the underbanked communities in the developing Southeast Asian nation. Ant Financial Services Group, which is under the umbrella of Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba Group Holding, will bring its Alipay technologies and business expertise to Myanmar, where the digital payment market is expected to grow. "Myanmar's population is still massively underserved by formal banking institutions with only a quarter of people having a bank account," said Melvyn Pun, CEO of Yoma Strategic Holdings. "Ant Group brings a wealth of expertise in mobile payment and financial services." Ant Financial will invest $73.5 million in Digital Money Myanmar, a joint venture between local conglomerate Yoma Group and major Norwegian mobile carrier Telenor Group. Although Ant Financial's stake after acquiring new shares has not been disclosed, a source said that the "three parties will have similar shareholdings." Digital Money Myanmar launched Wave Money in 2016, becoming a pioneer in the field. To use the service, a person who wants to send money brings cash and the phone number of the recipient to a participating store. Recipients receive notifications on their phones and go to a nearby participating store to receive the money. Wave Money succeeded in capturing demand of laborers working in cities to send money back home to rural areas, with transfer volume reaching 6.4 trillion kyat ($4.3 billion) in 2019. Through the partnership, Digital Money Myanmar hopes to grow Wave Money from a simple remittance service to a widely used digital payment platform. Few people currently use Wave Money's smartphone app to make payments from their accounts using QR Codes or to pay utility bills. Digital Money Myanmar will tap Ant Financial's know-how to increase usage by introducing new services. Alipay offers a wide range of services, such as using consumers' purchase history to determine credit scores.

Infrastructure

Singapore Agency to Help Myanmar Find Partners for Key Infrastructure Projects The Irrawaddy 28th May 2020
Under an agreement with Myanmar’s Ministry of Planning, Finance and Industry (MOPFI), Singapore’s Infrastructure Asia (IA) will help identify suitable investors, including by inviting international-standard tenders, for infrastructure projects listed in Myanmar’s Project Bank, an online database of priority projects aligned with the country’s sustainable development plan. According to the Singapore Embassy, under the agreement, which was signed on Wednesday, IA will share best practices and knowledge in order to structure and improve the bankability of the projects, as well as identify and connect authorities with suitable investors and other partners.

Myanmar To Build Two Earth Observation Satellites With Japanese Assistance  SpaceWatch.Global 14th May 2020
Myanmar is to build and launch a small Earth observation satellite by 2021 with the assistance of Japan. Engineers and technicians from the Myanmar Aerospace Engineering University will travel to Japan as soon as travel restrictions imposed due to the Coronavirus pandemic are lifted, where they will be trained and educated by satellite engineering faculty at the Hokkaido and Tohoku Universities. The small satellites will weigh approximately 50 kilograms and measure 50 x 50 x 50 centimetres, and will be used for remote sensing to monitor agricultural conditions, environmental monitoring, and disaster surveillance

China Pushes BRI Projects As Myanmar Rolls Out COVID-19 Economic Relief Plan The Irrawaddy 7th May 2020
Chinese Ambassador to Myanmar Chen Hai and Myanmar’s Deputy Minister for Planning, Finance and Industry U Set Aung met for ‘in-depth discussions’ Wednesday on the implementation of outcomes from Chinese President Xi Jinping’s visit to Myanmar in January, according to the Chinese Embassy in Myanmar. The Chinese Embassy said that the two discussed how to move forward on the development of China’s ambitious projects in Myanmar based on the Myanmar government’s COVID-19 Economic Relief Plan (CERP). The projects discussed included New Yangon City, Kyaukphyu Deep-Sea Port and Industrial Zone and the China-Myanmar Border Economic Cooperation Zone.

Union Construction Minister inspects upgrading of Yangon-Pathein road via video meeting Global New Light Of Myanmar 2nd May 2020
Union Minister for Construction U Han Zaw inspected the Yangon-Pathein road projects and preparedness for natural disasters via video conferencing yesterday. At the video meeting, Director-General (Civil) of Road Department U Yan Naing Zaw explained the processes of Yangon-Pathein road upgrading project, installation of sheet piles beside the road to retain soils on the road during the raining season, and ongoing works. Chief Engineer of Road Department U Kyaw Naing reported on the upgrading processes of Yangon-Pathein road (Yangon Region road section).

Quality must prevail in post-pandemic infrastructure development Asian Development Blog 18th May 2020
Out of crisis comes opportunity is a common refrain and perhaps there is no better time than now to preview what follows on the COVID-19 relief and recovery support. Infrastructure development has been a cornerstone of Asia and the Pacific’s ’s successful growth and development strategy. It has served to strengthen income per capita, improve livelihoods and lower poverty through investment led growth. In parallel, it has supported the Sustainable Development Goals, recognizing the crucial link between infrastructure development and service delivery. High quality infrastructure is critical to continue to deliver on these gains. The Quality of Infrastructure Investment (QII) was central to the deliberations of the G20 Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors, which endorsed the new G20 Principles for QII at their meeting in Fukuoka, Japan in 2019. This comprises a broader, robust and dedicated approach to sound project preparation practices over the project lifecycle including the adoption of innovative technology, environmental and social sustainability, resilience against natural disasters, and governance for procurement transparency and robust institutions. Investments aligned with these principles will support the value for money proposition, help extend the life of the infrastructure asset and thereby increase the returns on investment across both end-users and investors, enhancing social welfare. Gradually, these principles are gaining traction across countries. In the People’s Republic of China (PRC), for example, the Measures for the Administration of Infrastructure and Public Utility Concessions took effect in 2015. They enabled competition for public-private partnerships (PPPs) between private and state-owned bidders, and encouraged bankable projects and risk transfer over the project life cycle. The preparatory phase of the project cycle is crucial in ensuring that only a well-structured, commercially viable PPP projects—which are more likely to provide value for money—are procured by governments. The preparation phase in the project cycle includes appraisal of fiscal affordability, social and environmental assessment, risk identification, financial viability, comparing public and private options and sounding out the market.    After COVID-19, strong and resilient infrastructure will have help Asia and the Pacific to prosper  Asia has some work to do on this score. The Procuring Public Private Partnerships in Infrastructure Report by the World Bank found that, based on an index from 0 to 100, of global best practices for project preparation, East Asia and the Pacific scored 40 compared to an average 65 for high-income OECD countries. This demonstrates the need for more work in Asia to bridge the gap between theory and practice when it comes to implementing project preparation practices associated with the quality infrastructure principles. There is no greater compelling case for quality infrastructure than now. All countries will come out of the crisis with significantly larger public debts.  Infrastructure investments will have to meet three key indicators:—efficiency, affordability, and sustainability. On efficiency, considerable progress is needed.  In a review of public investment management frameworks of 30 emerging, low, and middle-income countries, the International Monetary Fund concluded that 30% of potential economic benefits of public investments are lost due to inefficiencies in the public investment process.  On affordability and inclusion, COVID-19 has led to the further widening of already yawning inequalities across this region including between those securing and losing their jobs and varied levels of access to health services. IMF research shows that GINI coefficients—a widely accepted measurement of inequality–have risen by nearly 1.5% five years after pandemics. From a public policy perspective, greater attention to financing will be required. For example, tariffs should be part of a wider package of financing–and not the driver—including tax revenue and returns from land value capture to ensure wider infrastructure service availability. Infrastructure investment with proper appraisal and aligned to QII can help to turn the tide on inequality by providing inclusive infrastructure that is more affordable and accessible by all. On sustainability, there is no greater threat than climate change and natural disasters.  Addressing these threats requires innovative and inclusive solutions to foster new technologies that enhance resilience, boost green investment in a decarbonized economy, and to leverage innovative technology throughout the project lifecycle. Economic and financial sustainability and strengthening institutions will be equally important in a world of scarce resources and limited fiscal headroom in the pandemic’s immediate aftermath. A recent survey of finance ministries, central banks, and academics in G20 countries showed that green investment has a positive impact on the speed at which the stimulus delivers economic impact for every dollar invested. The question is how to effectively internalize future returns on an infrastructure project against upfront construction costs exacerbated by the pressing fiscal and financing constraints caused by COVID-19. Emergency financial support should be integrated into a fiscal framework that does not jeopardize debt sustainability. In the medium to long term, however, a sound fiscal framework should be combined with increased investment in high-quality infrastructure that provides direct positive social and economic impacts, climate resilience, and more effective delivery of public goods and services. Quality infrastructure is not a luxury good that would be nice if affordable. It is a necessary good that delivers a positive return on public investment as well as measurable economic benefits. Beyond ramping up finance to meet the immediate crisis, multilateral development banks can help their borrowing members by ensuring infrastructure investment is in line with the Quality Infrastructure Investment principles.

Manufacturing

MFPTMA requests tax reduction for export of lumbers, finished products Global New Light Of Myanmar 9th May 2020
Myanmar Forest Products and Timber Merchants Association (MFPTMA) requested a reduction of tax for export of lumbers and finished timber products. MFPTMA is paying 10 per cent for special goods tax and 2 per cent for the commercial tax to the government for export of lumbers and finished timber products. At present, the lumber and the finished timber products are purchased mainly by Europe, USA and Asia. A According to 2017-2018 annual progress report of Myanmar Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (MEITI), Myanmar has earned US$ 223 million from the production of 340,428 tonnes of teak in 2017-2018FY. Among them, teak worth $137.69 million was sold in export tender while the remaining $85.31 million were earned from the local tender. Moreover, Myanmar has earned US$ 88 million from exporting of timber lumbers.

Travel & Tourism

Myanmar Tourism Sector Braced for 50% Job Cuts Amid COVID-19 Downturn The Irrawaddy 30th Apr 2020
The Union of Myanmar Travel Association (UMTA) has predicted that more than half of the people employed in the hotel and tourism industry may lose their jobs because of COVID-19. As all hotels and tour operators have been forced to suspend operations, many have made 50 to 70 percent of their staff redundant while others have reduced salaries, UMTA chairman U Naung Naung Han said. The UMTA estimates that around 800,000 people are directly employed in hospitality and the total number may be between 1.2 million and 1.5 million if indirect employment from services related to tourism, like horse carts, motorboats and weaving, is counted.