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Business weekly 20 March 2015

Ups and downs

The currency exchange rate on Friday held at 1 US dollar to 1,027 kyat; 1 euro to 1,095.2 kyat; 1 Thai baht to 31.35 kyat; and 1 Saudi Arabian riyal to 273.82 kyat.

Gold is currently buying in Rangoon at 667,800 kyat per tical, and selling at 668,800 kyat per tical.

The right side of the road for India-ASEAN highway?

A planned three-country highway project, set to link Burma, Thailand and India, expects to boost ASEAN-Indian trade and bypass the troublesome road infrastructure that currently exists – but a decision first needs to be made on which side of the road should be used. The highway is due for completion in 2017, according to Burmese state media reports, and is eventually expected to be extended to Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam which, like Burma, have right-handed traffic, whereas Thailand and India drive on the left.

Jade value suffers from exchange rate

Burma’s Ministry of Commerce has announced that the value of jade exports has topped US$1 billion since the beginning of the fiscal year. However, official statistics from the ministry suggest that this total amount is lower than the same period last year, apparently due in part to a weak exchange rate and a drop in export volumes.

Foreign, domestic companies to operate state-run farms

Thirty one farms and factories owned by Burma’s Ministry of Livestock Fisheries and Rural Development will soon be operated by foreign and domestic companies under a governmental joint venture plan, according to state media. The programme, for which applications are open until 28 March, aims to maximise the economical efficiency of the industrial agriculture projects. Factories available for management include those for veterinary medicines, feed, and processing of pork products, while farms include those for ducks, chickens and pigs.

Plans for new Thai-Burma border crossing

A new Thai-Burma border checkpoint is being considered by Thai officials to boost tourism and trade, according to media reports. The crossing, located to the west of the country’s shared shorelines in Thailand’s Prachaub Province, will provide an entrance into Burma’s Tenasserim District and is expected to serve as a tourist attraction and trade route.

Int’l roaming for Ooredoo Myanmar customers

Customers of Ooredoo Myanmar will now be able to use their mobiles abroad, as the Qatar-based operator has launched a roaming service in 24 countries, which will eventually include Hong Kong, Switzerland and Brazil. The service will be available immediately in Sri Lanka, Taiwan and Italy, according to a Myanmar Business Today report. Costs will depend on the country, and customers will be charged for every 30 seconds of calls and 50 kilobytes of data.

Fewer liquor licenses to be allowed in Burma

Liquor license issuing will be curbed in order to reduce alcohol consumption, according to Deputy Minister for Home Affairs Brig-Gen Kyaw Kyaw Tun. Approval of applications will be based on neighbourly consent, rather than on an individual recommendation, he said. However, lower house MP Thein Tun has pointed out that unregistered retailers are widespread, especially in rural areas, and that applicants have been known to forge signatures in the quest for license approval.

Burmese debit cards to go global

Customers of Burmese banks will soon be able to use their debit cards all over the world, thanks to a new deal between the Myanmar Payment Union and Japanese credit card company JCB. Co-branded cards featuring chip technology will be released in the next three to six months, according to a report in Burmese state media, and will allow holders to make payments throughout JCB’s network of 27 million merchants in 190 different countries.

Taiwan looks to Burma for labour

Taiwan is planning on taking in migrant workers from Burma to resolve labour shortages in the manufacturing and agricultural sectors, Taiwanese media reported, citing the director general of the country’s Workforce Development Agency. In the initial stage of the program, about 100 to 200 Myanmar nationals will be brought to Taiwan to work on a trial basis, Liu Chug-chun said, adding that the experimental programme could be implemented at the end of April or early May at the earliest.

Rail shows way for high-tech cable system

Burma’s 6,000-km railway system is to be used as a framework for an underground fibre-optic cable network to improve the country’s telecoms. The scheme will allow for easier connection to cities and towns, as well as facilities in rural areas, with construction of the project expected to begin in 2016. Some construction tenders will be awarded to local firms, though foreign firms are more “desirable” because of their technical expertise, rail chief Ba Myint is quoted as saying in Myanmar Business Today.

New gas and oil port for Mon State

A construction deal for a new oil and gas port in Moulmein [Mawlamyine] has been signed between Mon State regional government and Myanmar Offshore Supply Base Ltd (MOSB). The facility on the east of the Gulf of Martaban will cover an area of 193 acres on land, and 46 acres of riverfront. Leonard Oh of MOSB said the project will “provide the local workforce with a wider range of choices to upgrade their standards of living,” according to press reports.