Ups and downs
The Burmese currency is up three kyat against the US dollar from the week before, selling at 976 kyat to the greenback on Friday 13 September, while buying at 969 kyat.
Gold is selling at 693,200 kyat per tical this week, resettling from a high of 726,000 kyat on 30 August when fears over the Syrian crisis pushed gold prices up.
Petrol remains at 814 kyat to the litre; diesel and octane stay at 920 per litre.
‘Made in Burma’ Nissan trucks on the way
Japanese automaker Nissan plans to begin producing small cars and trucks in Burma with its Malaysian partner as early as this year, the Nikkei business daily reported on 16 September. Nissan Motor and Malaysia’s Tan Chong Motor Holdings Bhd will jointly produce several thousand small passenger cars and pickup trucks a year in the country, the report said without citing sources.
A Tan Chong affiliate will likely construct an assembly plant that will finish cars using parts shipped from Nissan factories in Southeast Asia and elsewhere, Nikkei said.
Burma tastes its first byte of Apple
The first authorised dealer of Apple products will open on 28 September at the Junction Mall shopping centre in Rangoon. Burmese mobile phone dealer mDrive won the patent to distribute Apple Inc’s Mac computers, software and other IT products; however mDrive CEO Myat Htoo says that the Apple iPad will not be available for the next two or three months.
Burma is China’s new tin man
China is turning to Burma to plug a gap in the supply of raw tin following new trading regulations in Indonesia which dictate that producers can now only sell ingots of the highest purity, a move aimed at boosting the value of exports.
While Indonesia is the world’s leading producer of tin, China is the world’s top metals consumer, and it has more than doubled its imports of tin ore and concentrates from Burma this year, shoring up an alternative source of the metal used mainly for solder in its vast electronics industry.
Indonesia sold more than 15,000 tonnes of tin to China last year, but sales have slumped heavily since the new restrictions were imposed. On the other hand, tin ore transported from Burma by land across the border for processing in Yunnan has more than tripled in quantity. China also imports significant amounts of tin ore from Malaysia, Japan and Bolivia.
MoneyGram seals deal with three Burmese banks
US-based money transfer firm MoneyGram (MGI) has added three Burmese banks to its global network, according to the Banking Business Review. MGI will offer services in collaboration with Asia Green Development Bank, Myanmar Citizens Bank, and Tun Foundation Bank, the report said.
MGI’s regional senior vice-president Grant Lines said services will be offered in 10 of Burma’s 14 states and regions, allowing millions of people the opportunity to send and receive money. Burmese will also be able to transfer funds to friends and family in around 80 nations and likewise receive money from abroad via MGI.
Govt invites tender bids for Kyaukphyu economic zone
The Burmese government announced on 8 September that it will invite tender bids for a special economic zone (SEZ) development in Kyaukphyu, western Arakan state.
According to an official announcement in The New Light of Myanmar, the chairman of the Bid Evaluation and Awarding Committee (BEAC) has invited both domestic and international firms to submit a “comprehensive strategy” to develop the SEZ. It said that Kyaukphyu—which is the starting point for the Shwe Gas pipeline to China—is “endowed with a deep-sea port, [and] is included as a key project to be developed in Myanmar [Burma], with a vision to become a logistics hub in the region.”
Tender bids are to be submitted to the BEAC no later than 25 September.
Central Bank considers interest rate cut
The Central Bank of Myanmar is considering lowering Burmese interest rates to bring them in line with international borrowing and lending standards. Currently, it sets lending rates at 13 percent per annum while Burmese banks offer a fixed 8 percent for savings, significantly higher than Burma’s neighbours where rates are generally around 2.5 percent for loans and 3 percent on savings.
The Central Bank’s deputy-president said the bank will be working with the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank on the subject of reducing interest rates.
Legal beagles set their sights on Burma
Singapore law firm Selvam & Partners has opened an office in Rangoon in a joint venture with US lawyers Duane Morris LLP. Under the name Duane Morris & Selvam LLP, the company announced last week that it plans to focus on corporate, project finance, technology, media and telecoms, and regulatory work, according to a report by industry magazine Legalweek.
The firm said it would advise clients on regulatory practices in Burma, including the US Foreign Corrupt Practices Act and UK Bribery Act. It also announced that it had signed a lease on an office space in Naypyidaw, the report said.
Burma looks to reap the rice harvest
The Burmese government and the International Rice Research Institute signed a new memorandum of understanding last week to help implement the “Myanmar Rice Sector Development Strategy and Programme” which aims to boost rice production and improve other aspects of the rice sector in Burma, according to industry analyst Oryza.
Burma’s Minister of Agriculture and Irrigation said it wants to introduce rice varieties that can tolerate salinity, floods, drought and low temperatures. He said there is also a need to increase the use of quality seeds, expand the use of modern agricultural techniques, reduce post-harvest losses, establish access to local and international markets, and increase the capabilities of its rice scientists.
FDI has created 20,000 jobs this year, says DICA director
Around 20,000 jobs have been created in Burma during the current fiscal year thanks to the increase in foreign direct investment (FDI), according to government data. In the first five months of the 2013-14 fiscal year (April to August inclusive), FDI topped US$1.8 billion, mostly focused in the garment manufacturing sector.
Aung Naing Oo, the director-general of the Directorate of Investment and Company Administration, said, “Every single garment factory that opens creates an additional 1,000 jobs. This fiscal year, we have so far approved 20 garment factories, so can estimate that around 20,000 new jobs have been created.”