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Ups and downs
The Burmese currency on Friday was valued at 1,220 kyat per US dollar, compared to 1,125 to the greenback the week before. The kyat was also trading at 1,327 to the euro; 892.53 to the Singapore dollar; 196.47 to the Chinese yuan and 19.207 to the Indian rupee. Gold was buying at 40,338.30 kyat per gram and selling at 44,584.44 per gram in Rangoon.
Property market unmoved by ‘New Rangoon’ project
In Rangoon’s southwest, a cluttered city skyline immediately gives way to lush green farms— individual blocks that are now worth tens of thousands of dollars each.
The sprawling paddy fields on Rangoon’s doorstep have now caught the eye of investors, as they occupy land a stone’s throw from an ever-growing city with a bloated real estate market.
Rangoon Regional Assembly on Monday began inviting tender bids from large-scale Burmese developers for a new town plan to be located west of the city centre.
Two international labour watchdogs simultaneously released statements on Wednesday, pledging support for the Burmese government’s proposed minimum wage of 3,600 kyat (US$3) per day.
The Ethical Trading Initiative (ETI) and the Fair Labor Association (FLA) claim to have the backing of 17 major international manufacturers, including sportswear giant Adidas, clothing retailer Gap Inc, as well as Tesco, H&M and Patagonia.
Garment factory owners say the current proposal is “unaffordable” and have threatened close, putting some 200,000 factory jobs at risk. However, Burma’s Ministry of Labour, Employment and Social Welfare has warned that manufactures who fail to obey official shut-down procedures would face legal action.
Meanwhile, 250 factory workers rallied in Rangoon last weekend demanding a minimum wage of 4,000 kyat per day.
Tay Za’s wife removed from US blacklist
The estranged wife of Burma’s best-known ‘crony’ Tay Za has been removed from The United States Treasury’s list of Special Designated Nationals, known commonly as the “US Blacklist”.
In a 9 July notice posted on the US Treasury website, Thidar Zaw, 51, was noted as having been removed from the blacklist that bars specific foreigners from doing business with American citizens or businesses.
Widely reputed to be one of the richest persons in the country, Tay Za remains blacklisted. A close friend of several members of the former ruling military junta, Tay Za owns the Htoo Group conglomerate, a string of luxury hotels, the airline Air Bagan and football club Yangon United. The US previously described him as “an arms dealer and financial henchman of Burma’s repressive [former] regime”.
Citigroup, StanChart hope to boost Burma’s credit rating
Citigroup Inc and Standard Chartered Plc are set to advise Burma on its first credit rating, according to people with direct knowledge of the matter, paving the way for the country to issue its maiden international bond.
After decades of isolation from international capital markets under military rule, Burma faces a widening current account deficit that could be reduced by borrowing once it has a credit rating from agencies such as Fitch, Moody’s or Standard & Poor’s.
Citi and StanChart will this month be given a formal mandate to advise the Southeast Asian nation on the steps necessary to earn the credit rating, one of the sources said, declining to be identified because the matter is not yet public.
US dollar demand rises against weakened kyat
Burmese finance analysts have predicted that the US dollar will continue to strengthen against the kyat until the end of the year, state media reported on 15 July.
High demand for the greenback, much preferred by investors to the kyat, has reportedly led to a shortage of the dollar in the market which in turn has fuelled demand.
The Central Bank of Myanmar on Wednesday set its reference foreign exchange rate at 1,210 kyat to the dollar.
Heineken taps into Burma
International brewers are trickling into Burma, betting that higher incomes and economic reforms will whip up a thirst for foreign beer in a market that has long been dominated by state-owned firms.
Heineken NV, the world’s third-largest brewer, on Sunday opened a US$60 million brewery joint-venture just outside Rangoon, returning to one of Asia’s most promising beer markets after exiting in 1997 amid international condemnation of the human rights abuses of the military government at that time.
Heineken’s Regal Seven beer is set to rival the Tuborg and Yoma brands by Carlsberg, which in May became the first foreign brewer to set up in Burma.
Burma, Thailand, China sign MoU for Salween dam
Thailand, China and Burma are expected to sign a memorandum of understanding for the development of the 7,000-megawatt Mong Ton hydropower project on the upper Salween River this year, Thailand’s The Nation reported on Wednesday, quoting Thai Energy Minister Narongchai Akrasanee.
The plant is expected to take five years to construct, and in its initial stage, estimated to deliver approximately 700-megawatts of power to Burma, where only 16 percent of people have access to electricity. The remaining 6,300-megawatts will be sold back to Thailand, the minister said.
Jade sales fall flat amid fighting in Kachin
The annual gems emporium in Naypyidaw has ended on a low, with jade sales down 63 percent, a decrease blamed on ongoing armed conflict in Kachin State.
Proceeds fell from last year’s record figure of US$3.4 billion to just $1.26 billion, as mining operations were interrupted by renewed clashes between the Burmese military and the Kachin Independence Army.