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Ups and Downs
The Burmese currency remains stable, with the buying rate finishing on Friday at 970, up from 968 kyat, while the selling rate sits at 974, up one kyat from last week. The price of gold dropped slightly from 682,000 kyat per tical to 672,500. Fuel prices mostly remain the same, with petrol selling at 820 kyat per litre, diesel at 950 kyat per litre, and octane up from 920 kyat to 950 kyat per litre. The price of rice did not fluctuate, with high-quality Pawhsanmwe rice selling for 1,300 to 1,700 kyat per basket at most Rangoon markets and low-quality Manawthukha rice going for 900 kyat per basket.
Rangoon cyber-city given go-ahead
Burma’s President Thein Sein has given the green light to the Rangoon divisional government to build a cyber-city similar to that of Pyin Oo Lwin in Mandalay Region. No site has yet been announced for the proposed IT centre, which is expected to cover 500-600 acres and include facilities for software production, electronics factories and IT colleges.
Malaysia’s CIMB Bank eyes Burma licence
Malaysia’s second largest bank, CIMB Group, is planning to obtain banking licences in Burma and Vietnam, Channel News Asia reported on Wednesday. The news agency cited chief executive Nazir Razak, who told reporters that CIMB aims to open branches in all Southeast Asian countries by 2015 when a planned partial integration of the ASEAN economies will be completed.
Finance Ministry to release citizens’ budget
Burma’s Ministry of Finance has pledged to introduce a “citizen’s budget” which it says will offer transparency so the public can see where government expenditures are allocated. The project is supported by the World Bank. Currently, spending on the military is four times that for health and double that for education.
Chinese transport plan derailed?
Plans for a railway connecting western Burma’s Arakan coast with Yunnan, China, have been cancelled due to strong public opposition, DPA reported on Wednesday. The agency cited an unnamed official stating that no progress has been made since signing an MoU for the project in 2011. However, at a press conference on Thursday, China’s ambassador to Burma, Yang Houlan, denied that the project had been scrapped.
Burma’s businesses still lack transparency: MCRB
Probing Burma’s largest businesses on their commitment to transparency, the Myanmar Centre for Responsible Business, or MCRB, said it found that the majority of domestic firms are unwilling or unable to disclose information on their own human rights standards. That list includes Union of Myanmar Economic Holdings, a military-owned firm that holds joint ownership of the controversial Latpadaung copper mine. “What we haven’t been able to do through the survey is check that even if they talk the talk, do they walk the walk,” said Bowman, a former British ambassador to Burma.
Ne Win’s grandson to buy into AGD Bank
The grandson of late Burmese dictator Ne Win revealed on Tuesday that he plans to purchase the majority of shares of Asian Green Development Bank (AGD Bank), which is owned by Tay Za, a well-known tycoon with links to Burma’s former military junta. Kyaw Ne Win, the oldest grandson of the former president, told DVB that he has bought up 60 percent of the AGD Bank’s shares, and plans to purchase more – up to 85 percent. His purchase of AGD Bank shares comes as the bank is looking to list on the Rangoon Stock Exchange, which is expected to be launched in 2015.
Wolfowitz received $75,000 for Burma work from anti-Beijing tycoon: leaks
Media and garment mogul Jimmy Lai Chee-Ying, well-known for his anti-Beijing sympathies and support for the Hong Kong democracy movement, paid former World Bank president and US Deputy Defence Secretary Paul Wolfowitz US$75,000 last year for “services in regards to Myanmar,” leaked documents show. The nature of the services provided by Wolfowitz to Lai in Burma are unclear. Wolfowitz currently works for the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative think-tank, and is the chairman of the US-Taiwan Business Council.
China demands hygiene standards on Burmese rice to legalise trade
The Chinese government is demanding a formal sanitary and phytosanitary agreement on rice standards with Burma, according to local sources. The agreement is required by China to legalise its rice trade with Burma, the joint-secretary of the Myanmar Rice Federation was quoted as saying. Though China accounts for about 60 percent of total unprocessed rice exports from Burma for the last two years, Chinese authorities view the trade as illegal due to the absence of a formal sanitary and phytosanitary agreement on rice standards between the two countries. Such an agreement would require Burma’s milled rice exports to follow China’s plant quarantine rules, including a third-party guarantee that they are free of disease or pests.
British Chamber of Commerce launched in Rangoon
The British Chamber of Commerce launched on Tuesday in Rangoon, paving the way for UK businesses to foster and promote investments in Burma. According to the Chambers’ website, UK exports to Burma increased from US$17 million in 2012 to almost $60 million in 2013. The British government anticipates that exports to the country will increase to $1.35 trillion by 2020 – a benchmark that the newly launched Chamber of Commerce will assist by identifying market opportunities for potential investors.