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Ups and downs
This week the Burmese currency sits at 981 kyat to the US dollar (buying rate) while selling at 988. Gold is marginally up this week to 662,000 kyat per tical. Fuel remains the same: petrol 820 kyat, diesel 950 kyat, and octane 920 kyat per litre. Rice too remains constant at 1,200- 1,300 kyat per basket for high-quality Pawsanhmwe rice and 850- 900 kyat for Emata rice.
Thein Sein vows to prioritise access to water, electricity
Speaking at the 2nd Myanmar Development Cooperation Forum on Monday, Burma’s President Thein Sein promised to prioritise seven development programmes during the remainder of his term. Priorities over the coming 26 months, he said, are increasing access to electricity and water, agricultural growth, job creation, tourism development, financial development, and improvements to the trade and investment sectors.
“In the past, we have relied only on the State budget for development of our country. Now we can also count on other sources of finance, such as foreign aid, loans, and domestic and foreign investments,” said Thein Sein.
Telenor, Ooredoo finally awarded telecoms licenses
Ooredoo and Telenor finally received their Burmese mobile licences on Thursday at a ceremony in Naypyidaw. The companies were originally awarded the mobile licences in June, but the issuing of licenses was delayed while the government finalised telecommunications regulations. Ooredoo Group Chairman H.E. Sheikh Abdullah Bin Mohammed Bin Saud Al-Thani said, “We look forward to working in partnership with the government of Myanmar to develop a world class network” while Telenor said the country “represents a strong business opportunity.”
Thai insurer offers life to Burma
Muang Thai Life Assurance Plc has become the first Thai insurer to win a permit to set up a representative office in Burma, making it the fifth foreign insurance company in the country, Bangkok Post reported on Monday. For the first time in over 50 years, state-owned Myanma Insurance and the Insurance Business Supervisory Board have issued 12 insurers conditional approval to operate in Burma. Of the 12 approved companies, three plan to offer life insurance, which requires paid-up capital of 6 billion kyat (S$6 million). The rest planned to offer life and general insurance, which requires total capital of 46 billion kyat.
World Bank pledges $2bn development aid to Burma
The World Bank has pledged $2 billion in development aid to Burma for projects such as healthcare and energy supply. Bank president Jim Yong Kim announced the package during his first visit to the country, saying the aim of the aid was to tackle poverty.
“Expanding access to electricity in a country like Myanmar can help transform a society. Children will be able to study at night, shops will stay open, and health clinics will have lights and energy to power life-saving technology. Electricity helps brings an end to poverty.”
Almost 70 percent of Burma’s population are not connected to the national grid. Kim said that improving power supplies is key to the country’s development.
UNESCAP unveils IT jobs plan for Burma
A new presidential initiative to create jobs for young people and investment opportunities in Burma’s IT sector was announced by the UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) during a development forum in Naypyidaw on 28 Jan. The first phase of the Information Technology Capacity Development Programme, a collaboration between ESCAP, Infosys and the governments of India and Burma, will see 25 outstanding IT engineers and entrepreneurs from Burma undergoing 12 weeks of intensive training in India in software development.
SEZ Law should be ‘driving force’ for Burma’s economy
Following the approval of the Special Economic Zone (SEZ) Law by Burma’s Parliament on 23 Jan, Maung Aung, advisor to the Trade Minister, said the creation of SEZs should be regarded as a “driving force” for economic development in the country. The new advantages for investors should prioritise export-focused enterprises, said economic policy expert Aung Ko Ko. According to the SEZ Law, investors in Burma’s SEZs, such as Kyaukphyu, Dawei or Thilawa, will receive a bouquet of income and tax incentives as per the new law.
Japan funds half of Burma’s stock exchange ‘float’
Rangoon’s stock exchange – due to begin trading in 2015 – will have a start-up cash “float” of 32 billion kyat (US$32 million), thanks to Japan’s Daiwa Securities Group and the Tokyo Stock Exchange, which will bankroll half the sum, Deputy Finance Minister Maung Maung was quoted saying last week by Eleven Media. The minister noted that firms wishing to be listed on the exchange will have to comply with minimum business standards which will be detailed in exchange rules still being drafted.
Burma aims to increase GDP to 9.1 percent
Burmese President Thein Sein told a development conference in Naypyidaw last week that his government aims to increase GDP to 9.1 percent in the 2014-15 financial year, almost 2 percent higher than the 7.3 percent predicted for this current year. He said that Naypyidaw will focus on rural development using development aid, interest-free loans, foreign direct investment and technical assistance.
No plan to ban offshore fishing
Acknowledging a decline of fishery resources, Deputy Livestock Breeding and Fisheries Minister Aung Myat Oo announced that offshore fishing will not be banned in the immediate future, as it would lead to a steep decline in exports and jobs, knocking some 60,000 workers off the industry’s employment count. The Minister noted, however, that while it used to take only 15-20 days to fill a boat load, unregulated overfishing has stretched the time to 45-60 days to complete a load.
Japanese loan up for approval in Parliament
Burma’s Finance Minister Win Shein submitted a proposal to Parliament on Tuesday to approve a US$600 million package of development assistance from the Japanese government. The Minister said the loan, granted with no interest for next 10 years and 0.01 interest rate for following 30 years, will be spent on development projects including: the first phase of upgrading the Rangoon-Mandalay railway; water distribution in Rangoon; and the second phase of construction on the Thilawa Special Economic Zone project.