Ups and Downs
The Burmese currency has been erratic recently, but finished strong on Friday. The buying rate is currently 959 kyat to the US dollar while the selling rate is 966. The price of gold has stabilised and is selling at 662,700 kyat per tical after a recent high of 674,000. Fuel prices remain unchanged: petrol is 820 kyat per litre; diesel 950 kyat; and octane 920 kyat a litre. Rice also remains constant; good quality Pawhsanmwe rice is selling at 1,300-1,600 kyat per basket while low-quality Manawthukha retails at 900 kyat per basket in most Rangoon marketplaces.
Burma needs infrastructure, skilled workers, says economist
Despite an influx of foreign investment and large resource base, Burma’s exponential growth in gross domestic product could be held back by inadequate basic infrastructure and a lack of skilled workers, says Rangoon-based business adviser, Jean-Pierre Verbiest. “The constraints to Burmese growth are a lack of necessary infrastructure, especially in the energy sector, and skilled workers,” he said. “The difficulty in finding skilled and manager-level workers in Burma is because there are not that many of them. However, Burma still has one of the lowest wage costs, which is ideal for labour-intensive industries.”
Western Union expands in Burma’s banks
Western Union has announced that it is expanding operations in Burma with nine local banks, namely Ayeyarwady Bank, Co-operative Bank, First Private Bank, Kanbawza Bank, Myanmar Apex Bank, Myanmar Treasure Bank, Myanmar Oriental Bank, United Amara Bank and Yoma Bank. Western Union currently operates within 250 bank branches in Burma, but plans to expand that number to 460. International money transfers are an important service for Burma’s estimated three to four million migrants around the world.
Rangoon to host auto show this weekend
An auto show exhibiting cars and motoring products from over 100 companies will be held in Rangoon’s Tatmadaw Hall from 16 – 19 May. The Modern Living Expo and Car Show, sponsored by Smart Business Group, will feature various automobile-related exhibitions including car accessories, audio systems and auto-parts.
78 percent of all FDI pledges materialise: DICA
Some 78 percent of all proposals for Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in Burma have come to fruition, while 22 percent did not materialise for various reasons, said the Directorate of Investment and Company Administration (DICA). Data released by DICA shows a total of US$46.4 billion pledged by foreign firms, although only $36.4 billion came through. China, Hong Kong, Singapore, South Korea and Thailand are currently the top investors in Burma.
Burma’s stock exchange will launch with just five firms
The Ministry of Finance has announced that it will nominate five of the strongest Burmese companies to float on the stock market when it opens later this year. It did not name the public limited companies (PLCs) nor say whether they had already been selected. Deputy Finance Minister Maung Maung Thein said it would be ideal to launch the stock exchange with many PLCs but the decision was made to start with just five as most firms in Burma are not yet strong enough.
Malaysian trade minister urges investment in Burma
Malaysia’s International Trade and Industry Minister Datuk Seri Mustapa Mohamed has urged Malaysian companies and businessmen to look towards Burma as their next destination for investment amid policy changes by that country’s government signalling it was serious in attracting foreign investors, the Star Online reported. The minister said 200 Malaysian companies are currently invested in Burma.
Singapore– Mandalay flights take off in June
SilkAir, a subsidiary of Singapore’s national carrier Singapore Airlines, will begin flights on 10 June connecting Singapore to Mandalay in central Burma, priced at US$460 round-trip. SilkAir already runs a service to Rangoon with flights priced at $430 return.
But not such good news for Shwe (Golden) Myanmar Airlines which has been forced to suspend its only international flight – to Bangkok – following an incident at Rangoon International last month when one of its two planes crashed into another aircraft while taxiing on the runway. The airline says it will focus on domestic flights in the meantime.
Tea industry in decline
Tea-leaf producers in Namhsan, northern Shan State, are struggling to stay in business due to labour shortages and a surge in untaxed tea from neighbouring China. “Internationally, tea leaf is regarded as a high-value export product, but local producers in Burma are hit hard by imports from China that evade commercial taxes,” said Tun Myaing, chairman of the Palaung Tea Growers and Producers Association. “This hampers local production and the government must take action,” he added, calling on the government to impose tax regulations specifically for Chinese teas.