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US war cry sends gold price soaring
Global gold prices have been soaring since the US and its allies threatened military intervention in Syria. On 22 August, gold was sitting at 706,500 kyat per tical, but subsequent fears that a war was imminent encouraged more buyers to invest in gold, traders said. The price soared over the weekend to 720,000 kyat and then leapt again to 726,000 by Thursday before settling back at 724,100 on the afternoon of Friday 30 August. Despite the rise in international oil prices, the instability in the Middle East has not forced up the price of petrol in Burma, and it remains at 814 kyat per litre.
More for your dollar
The kyat rose ever so slightly this week against international currencies. On 21 August its buying price was 967 to the US dollar and selling price 977. By 30 August, the kyat was valued at 965 kyat to the dollar while selling at 973.
Dhaka flights to resume
Bangladeshi and Burmese civil aviation authorities signed an agreement on Thursday in Dhaka to resume direct flights between the Bangladeshi capital and Rangoon after a six-year hiatus. Mahmud Hossain, the chairman of the Civil Aviation Authority of Bangladesh, said, “Yangon [Rangoon] has become now commercially more viable for our carriers. It’s now a good transit on our way to Bangkok and Kuala Lumpur.” Officials expect that the direct air link can be resumed by November.
Japanese airline buys 49 percent share in Asian Wings
Japan’s All Nippon Airways (ANA) announced on 27 August that it had acquired a 49 percent stake in Asian Wings Airways (AWA), the first investment in a Burma-based commercial carrier by a foreign airline. The Japanese airline said it will employ larger aircraft and make the currently three-flights-a-week service daily between Tokyo’s Narita and Rangoon from the end of September. AWA currently flies to 13 cities in Burma.
World Bank loan to cover development projects
Burma’s Union Parliament has approved a plan, recommended by President Thein Sein, to accept a US$261.5 million loan from the World Bank to support various development projects. The 40-year loan – at a fixed 0.75 percent interest rate – would be used to develop the communications sector and to improve schools, as well as pay for the construction of a compressed natural gas and biogas power plant in Mon state’s Thaton township. In January, the World Bank announced that it would clear Burma’s outstanding debt of some $900 million, allowing the country to reapply for grants and loans from international institutions.
Meanwhile, The Asian Development Bank announced on 26 August that it will administer a Japanese loan of $1.2 million to help Burma improve statistics collection.
Rice exports down, but optimism remains high
Burma exported some 200,000 tonnes of rice between April and July, but that’s 100,000 tonnes short of last year’s figures. According to Aung Than Oo, the chairman of the Myanmar Rice and Paddy Traders Association, the 50 percent decrease in shipments is due to an increase in the Burmese rice price, a decrease in Indian prices, and adverse weather conditions. Aung Than Oo, remained upbeat however, saying that while Burma exported some 1.4 million tonnes of rice in 2012, this year he expects the total to hit 2 million tonnes.
Vietnam rues missed opportunities in Burma
A delegation of Vietnamese business leaders were quoted in the national press complaining that the country’s entrepreneurs have been slow to enter Burma while other Asian and western countries move in to the nascent markets. Pham Dung, Vietnam’s ambassador to Burma, is quoted by Thanh Nien as saying that the embassy in Rangoon has been busy receiving and assisting Vietnamese businesses coming to explore the market, but few have returned or invested.