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Ups and downs
The Burmese currency is currently trading at 1,078 kyat to the US dollar, weakening slightly from last week’s 1,075. On 1 May, the kyat was valued at 1,198 euros and 32.79 Thai baht. The price of gold has increased from 673,428 kyat per tical at Rangoon markets to 688,500 (buying) and 689,500 (selling).
ASEAN, EU aim for free trade pact
The 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and the European Union (EU) agreed on Sunday, 26 April, to take steps toward resuming stalled talks on a free-trade agreement between the two regions. The EU had launched negotiations in 2007, but broke them off in 2009 amid disagreements largely centering on European concerns over ASEAN member Burma’s human rights record.
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Fruit growers encouraged to think globally
Burma’s Agriculture Department is encouraging the country’s fresh fruit growers to become compliant with global safety standards in a bid to boost exports, according to industry magazine Fruit Net. The department has distributed Good Agricultural Practice (GAP) applications to producers, predominantly mango, watermelon and muskmelon growers, who are currently targeting markets in China, Singapore, Hong Kong, Japan and South Korea. Exporters are also hoping to win access to the EU, according to the Nation.
SembCorp take on Burma’s biggest gas power plant
The government’s Myanmar Electric Power Enterprise has awarded a US$300 million contract to Singaporean SembCop Utilities for the building and operating of Burma’s largest gas-fired power plant. The project at Myingyan, Mandalay is expected to reach completion in 2017, and it is hoped it will reduce Burma’s power deficit, with a capacity of 500 megawatts at peak periods, according to state media.
ASEAN set to become world’s 5th largest economy by 2020: ANZ
A new report by economists representing ANZ Bank says that greater economic integration could see ASEAN replace China as the world’s leading manufacturing centre over the next 10–15 years, and that the bloc looks set to become the world’s fifth largest economy by 2020. The report singles out the potential of Burma, Cambodia and Laos for their “large youthful labour force for new production platforms”.
India installing sonar on Burmese frigates
Indian state-owned company Bharat Electronics Limited (BEL) is to begin installing a HMS-X integrated ship sonar system on two more Aung Zeya-class guided-missile frigates belonging to the Burmese navy, an official from India’s Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) told IHS Jane’s on 29 April. The HMS-X system was developed with inputs from the DRDO, and is currently being marketed by BEL. The DRDO has described the product as a more advanced development of the HUMSA sonar.
Thein Sein addresses minimum wage issues
The Burmese economy will be negatively impacted if ongoing disputes between employers and employees are not resolved, President Thein Sein warned. He noted that if the minimum wage were too high, it would increase production costs and consequently block foreign investment; however if the minimum wage is too low then workers’ who are struggling to survive will inevitably take to the streets to protest.