Ups and downs
The Burmese currency on Friday was valued at 1,240 kyat per US dollar, down from 1,220 to the greenback the week before. The kyat was also trading at 1,362 to the euro, 905.97 to the Singaporean dollar, 199.69 to the Chinese yuan and 35.642 to the Thai baht. Gold was buying at 38,904.21 kyat per gram and selling at 42,999.39 per gram in Rangoon.
H&M favours ‘uniform’ minimum wage
Clothing giant Hennes & Mauritz (H&M) voiced its support for a standard minimum wage across Burma, as negotiations on the proposed 3,600 kyat (US$3) per day figure continued.
In a statement released on 17 July, the international fashion brand advocated the implementation of a minimum wage, but recommended the government set a uniform figure across all industries to “attract and retain a skilled labour force.” The statement did not say whether it approved of the proposed $3 per day wage.
New development bank to lift tourism sector
The tourism industry will get a boost with the establishment of a tourism development bank, the Myanmar Tourism Bank stated this week.
The proposed development bank will provide loans, technological assistance and communication services. The move comes as a result of a high influx of international tourists since Thein Sein’s administration took power in 2011. The tourism sector showed a profit of US$1 billion in 2014, a figure expected to double this year.
China tops foreign investment in Burma
Despite a declining stock market and stalled development projects, China remains the top foreign investor in Burma, according to the Bangkok Post.
In June, China’s investments were valued at US$8.9 million, accounting for 26 percent of total foreign direct investment (FDI). The figure is slightly down from reports this time last year, when China comprised 38 percent of Burma’s total FDI.
Thailand came in second to China, accounting for 18 percent of foreign investment.
This year, Burma has attracted $8 billion in investment, approximately 40 percent of which went into the oil and gas sector.
Telenor boosted by growth in Burma
Norwegian mobile phone operator Telenor reported second-quarter earnings on Wednesday, a touch below expectations. Telenor however kept its full year revenue and margin guidance, and said its rapid growth in Burma was continuing.
Telenor said its earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA) rose 11 percent to 10.57 billion Norwegian crowns (US$1.3 billion) compared to expectations for 10.77 billion crowns in a Reuters poll of analysts.
Competition and a weak economy in Thailand, as well as under-performing units in Pakistan and Malaysia, was offset by the new business in Burma as well as profits in India and stable developments in Telenor’s largest single market, Norway.
Visa-free agreement reaches with Thailand
The Thai government has approved a new agreement with Burma, allowing visa-free visits of up to 14 days to citizens of both countries, according to the Bangkok Post.
As part of the agreement, Thai and Burmese passport holders will receive visa waivers for visits of no more than two weeks long for those arriving by commercial aircraft.
The agreement allows for cancellation by either side via diplomatic channels and can be suspended temporarily for security or health reasons.
MPT slashes fees for fixed phone lines
State-run firm Myanma Posts and Telecommunications (MPT) has decided to cut its installation fees by 50 percent in a bid to make fixed telephone lines “more affordable” for consumers and businesses, according to the Myanmar Business Today.
Installation of a fixed line for home or business telephones and ADSL internet will now cost clients 325,000 kyat (US$270), down from the previous fee of 650,000 kyat.
However, after a recent boom in mobile phone subscriptions across the country, the fee cut may do little to further entice customers to use fixed phones. In Burma, a smartphone with a call/text subscription and internet connection can cost as little as US$40.
5 firms on inland port shortlist
Burma’s Ministry of Rail Transportation has selected a shortlist of five applicants to operate inland ports in Rangoon and Mandalay divisions, it announced on 18 July.
The ministry said that two of the five would be chosen to undertake Burma’s first ever dry ports project, which is slated for Ywarthargyi in Rangoon Division and Myitnge in Mandalay Division.