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Burma’s foreign debt now nearly $US10 billion
Burma is in debt to international institutions and foreign governments to the sum of $US9.5 billion as of the end of this fiscal year, according to Minister of Finance Dr Lin Aung. Speaking in parliament on Thursday, he said nearly the half the debt was owed to China with the rest divided among 16 other countries as well as the Asian Development Bank and the World Bank. No mention was made about fiscal policy nor whether Naypyidaw was taking steps to combat the national debt.
Garment sector to earn $1.5 billion in exports this year
Income from garment exports could increase to US$1.5 billion once the US and EU have entered the Burmese market, according to Khine Khine Nwe, secretary of Myanmar Garment Entrepreneurs Association. The statement was made during a contract signing between Burmese and Australian merchants in Rangoon on Monday. The garment sector brought in an estimated US$1 billion in the 2013-14 fiscal year, up from $800 million the previous year. Easing of economic sanctions in 2013 has bolstered investment and exports in the garment sector.
Burma sets parboiled rice export goal of 300,000 tons
The Myanmar Rice Federation (MRF) says 11 new factories will increase the export of parboiled rice tenfold. This financial year, only around 30,000 tons was exported, the low figure due to infrastructure limits, the MRF says. “We are building 10 factories, and each will produce 100 tons per day,” said MRF chairman Chit Khine. “Seven of those are close to completion. Myanmar Economic Holdings have completed the 11th factory, with a 250 ton per day production capacity.”
Vietnam Airlines introduces new routes to Burma
Vietnam Airlines has announced it will begin flights to Burma this summer with the launch of a Hanoi- Rangoon- Hanoi route on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays; and a Ho Chi Minh [Saigon]- Rangoon- Ho Chi Minh flight service on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays. Burma and Vietnam recently agreed a mutual 14-day free-visa-on-arrival system to encourage tourism.
FEC deadline nears
Burma’s Central Bank has announced that all FECs (Foreign Exchange Certificates) must be exchanged at banks handling foreign transactions by 31 March at the latest. A Central Bank official said the FEC equivalent of US$400,000 is still in circulation among the public. Valued at 1 dollar, the FECs came into being in February 1993 as an attempt to maintain government control over foreign currency exchange and service the national debt. It also looked to simplify Burma’s complex and convoluted multiple exchange rates which long plagued the country’s economy.
New bidders called on for airport construction tender
Applicants have been recalled to place tender bids for the construction of Hantharwaddy Airport, planned to be the biggest in Burma. Talks between Korean company Incheon and the government broke down regarding the construction of the airport outside of Pegu. The second choice for the original tender, Singaporean company Yongnam Holdings, will be made to resubmit alongside other applicants, according to the Department of Civil Aviation. Applicants have been given a 22 April deadline.
Thai company won’t recall soft drinks containing fungus
The Food Star Company, Thai producers of the soft drink “Deedo”, have refused to recall their product in Burma after product testing showed fungus in samples of the beverage. The company, who said the fungus is a result of lengthy storage before the tests were conducted, will meet with the Burmese Food and Drug Administration Department on Wednesday. Food Star is in the midst of rolling out a US$7 million advertising campaign across ASEAN, including Burma. Product testing was conducted by the Myanmar Consumer Protection Association, a non-governmental consumer advocacy group.
Shwe gas slowly trickling to China
Drilling delays are holding up movement of natural gas from the Bay of Bengal to China, Interfax reported on Monday. The parallel Shwe pipelines, owned by China National Petroleum Corporation and operated by a multinational consortium, run from Burma’s Arakan coast to Yunnan, China. The natural gas pipeline began operating in July 2013, but is running far under projected capacity of 12 billion cubic metres per year, the report said. An adjacent crude oil pipeline has been mostly built but is not yet operational, some say due to opposition in southern China.
Foreign investment invited for Rangoon apartments
Foreign investment is being sought for apartment projects in Rangoon as neither the Burmese government nor the private sector can fulfill the city’s construction needs, said Deputy Director of the Department of Human Resettlement and Housing Development Aye Aye Myint, speaking at a forum in Rangoon’s Traders Hotel. She said that a total of 7,000 apartments were being built every year but that current demand was for no less than 25,000.
17 foreign firms eye Thilawa SEZ
No less than 17 foreign companies are bidding for contracts and land leases at Thilawa Special Economic Zone (SEZ), said Myanmar-Japan Thilawa Development Co Ltd Chairman Takashi Yanai. Speaking at an investors’ meeting on Tuesday, Takashi said the majority of the firms are from Japan and Hong Kong, with interests ranging from garment industries to electronic to food processing. He said construction at the SEZ, which is situated 25km south of Rangoon, will begin in May and should be open for business in mid-2015.