Ups and Downs
The Burmese currency remained stable this week, with the buying rate finishing on Friday at 966 kyat – up 1 kyat compared to the week before – and the selling rate dropping slightly to 970 kyat. Meanwhile, the price of gold increased to 657,100 kyat per tical, compared to last week’s rate of 649,800 kyat. Fuel prices remained the same, with petrol selling at 820 kyat per litre, diesel at 950 kyat per litre, and octane at 920 kyat per litre. The price of rice also did not fluctuate, with the high-quality Pawhsanmwe rice continueing to sell at 1,300 to 1,600 kyat per basket and low-quality Manawthukha rice going for 900 kyat per basket.
JICA dismisses accusations of negligence
Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) rejected allegations that it betrayed its own guidelines on “environmental and social considerations” in the Thilawa Special Economic Zone, in which it has a 10 percent equity stake. These allegations are from residents of the Myaing Thar Yar resettlement village, home to 68 families displaced by construction of the project’s 400-hectare first phase. Masahiko Tanaka, JICA’s chief representative in Burma, claimed that issues of compensation and compliance with “international standards” are ultimately the government’s responsibility.
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Price of LPG doubles due to Thai coup
The price of liquid petroleum gas (LPG) – the substance used mainly for cooking – has more than doubled in Burma during the last month due to a shortage in Thailand amid a military coup. The owner of a gas shop in Rangoon said that the LPG price, which stood at about 2,600 kyat (US$2.68) per tank last month, has now risen to about 6,500 kyat this week. Many gas shops have also temporarily closed due to a lack of LPG supplies.
Commercial Tax Law grants new exemptions
The newly adopted Commercial Tax Law offers exemptions on 18 types of goods and 26 commercial services, customs officials announced on Wednesday. Exempted goods include: fertiliser; farm equipment; household pharmaceuticals; stationary; condoms; textbooks; and equipment for defence and security organisations. Exempted services include funeral assistance and real estate services.
Japan pledges $40m to build Rangoon bridge
The Japanese government has pledged assistance worth over US$40 million towards the construction of a new bridge in Rangoon’s Thaketa Township to improve transportation to and from the Thilawa Special Economic Zone and to reduce traffic congestion in the city. The Thilawa industrial site, some 25km south of the city centre, is a joint Burmese-Japanese development, and has attracted several multinational firms such as Mitsubishi and Sumitomo, and the US’s Ball Corporation.
Thiha Groups signs steel deal with Thailand’s Millcon
Thiha Group has signed a joint venture with Thailand’s Millcon Steel Plc to tap the growing demand for steel and other construction materials in Burma, according to a Bangkok Post report. Millcon’s president said his firm was “entering a new market to establish a foothold” and that it will have an advantage in being among the first foreign steel and construction firms in Burma. Despite both countries having similar populations, Burma reportedly uses 1.33 million tonnes of steel per year compared with 17.7 million tonnes consumed in Thailand.
Hilton to open 5 more hotels in Burma
Hilton Worldwide Holdings plans to open five more hotels in Burma over the next three years, Reuters reported on Wednesday. The company’s first development in Rangoon was originally slated to open this year, but will be delayed until late 2015 or early 2016, the report said. Despite the delays, Hilton has signed new agreements with Eden Group Company Limited to rebrand two existing properties as Hilton hotels and develop three more.
One percent of Burma’s population insured
About 700,000 people out of Burma’s population of 60 million have life insurance, according to a report from Myanmar Business Today. Aye Min Thein, managing director of state-run insurer Myanma Insurance Enterprise, said this low insurance penetration – roughly 1 percent – is due to a lack of interest. “The public has very little interest and there is a knowledge gap, so the numbers are very low,” he said. Sailors and migrant workers are the highest subscribers to life insurance, while people in the country seldom get insured.
US retailer Gap enters Burma’s market
Clothing giant Gap Inc. has become the first American retailer to enter the Burmese market, the US embassy announced last Saturday at a signing ceremony attended by Ambassador Derek Mitchell and Chris Milligan, the mission director of USAID, which is partnering the project. Gap intends to operate two clothing factories in Rangoon, an embassy statement said.
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