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Ups and downs
Official exchange counters in Rangoon were offering 967 kyat to the US dollar and selling kyat at 975, marginally higher than street vendors who are buying at 966 and selling at 974.
Gold is selling this week at 684,500 kyat per tical, down from last week’s value of between 687,900 and 690,000 kyat. Fuel prices remain the same for the fourth week in a row; rice prices also stay constant.
Foreign investment hits all-time high
Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in Burma has reached more than US$1.6 billion for the first six months of the 2013-14 fiscal year – already topping the total value of $1.4 billion recorded the previous year, according to the Directorate of Investment and Company Administration (DICA). Some 40,000 jobs have been created by this year’s foreign investment, which included launches by multinational companies Heineken Beer and Nissan Motors among 57 foreign firms. DICA data shows the majority of FDI was in the garment sector, followed by food products, manufacturing and tourism.
Hyundai revs up for Burma
Hyundai Motor Co aims to raise its market share in Burma to over 15 percent in the next three or four years, basking in the huge popularity of South Korean culture, said the sole dealer for the automaker in the country, Kolao Holdings, this week. Hyundai reportedly plans to open 14 dealerships in Burma by 2014 – it launched its first in Rangoon in August. Vehicle models to be sold in Burma will be expanded from the Starex and Porter to include compact cars such as the Hyundai Accent.
Rice exports cannot top last year’s record high
Burma’s rice exports during April– October 2013 stand at around 450,000 tons, substantially less than the 730,000 tons exported during the same period in the fiscal year 2012-13, according to local sources. In FY 2012-13, Burma exported a record 2.1 million tons of rice, up about 40 percent from the targeted 1.5 million tons. The country is targeting exports of around 1.5 million tons of rice again in FY 2013-14, however, local sources say that it is unlikely the export target will be met this year. Burma’s rice exports surged last year mainly due to a good crop and low prices. However, rice crops this year were adversely affected by weather disturbances and higher prices. Moreover, Chinese importers have turned to Thailand and Vietnam for better quality rice after both countries lowered prices.
Seven percent of rural villages connected to national grid
Just 7 percent of all rural villages in Burma – a little more than 4,700 of nearly 65,000 small towns and village tracts across the country – are able to enjoy a supply of electricity from the national power grid. Nearly 13,000 villages, around 20 percent of the total number, attain electrical power from generators while some 21,000 are powered up by mini-hydropower, solar and biogas generators. The Burmese government is currently receiving assistance from China, South Korea and the Asian Development Bank in a bid to widen coverage across the country.
Bridge over troubled motors
A 17 billion kyat (US$17.5 million) budget has been appropriated by the Rangoon divisional government to construct an overpass at the Myaynigone junction in Rangoon’s Sanchaung township in 2014-15. The plan must be approved in parliament before it is finalised. The measure to relieve the city’s exasperating traffic woes follows hot on the heels of the construction of flyovers at Hledan junction (14 billion kyat); the 21 billion kyat Bayintnaung double-flyover; and the13 billion kyat Shwegondaing overpass which is due to open at the end of November.
Indonesia unveils power plans for Burma
Indonesia’s state-owned coal mining firm PT Tambang Batubara Bukit Asam plans to build steam power plants worth US$900 million in Burma in the next few years and has invited a local partner to work on the project, reported Investor Daily, quoting the firm’s finance director Achmad Sudarto. The Indonesian company will first build a 2×100 megawatt power plant worth between $350 million and $450 million, the report said, though the location was not disclosed.
Paying with plastic
MasterCard’s debut ATM card in Burma has attracted nearly 4,000 customers within its first month, according to Kyaw Lin, the CEO of Cooperative Bank (CB Bank), MasterCard’s local partner. The “Easi Travel MasterCard” was launched on 8 October and can be used for cash withdrawals at ATMs in 210 countries worldwide, The Voice reported. Within Burma it can be used for purchases online, and at restaurants, hotels and other outlets which accept MasterCard.
PETRONAS promises social, environmental assistance
PETRONAS, Malaysia’s state-owned energy giant which recently won offshore energy blocks in Burmese waters after a competitive tender bidding process, has announced that it will spend around US$1 million on environmental conservation and social assistance programmes in Burma. Othman Awang Jaya, a senior official for the firm, said at a Rangoon press conference on 5 November that PETRONAS, despite being an extractive enterprise, will assist with local education and social welfare, as well as environmental and forest conservation projects.