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China still Burma’s top trading partner
China continues to rank as the top trading partner with more than US$7 billion worth of transactions in the previous fiscal year, according to the Ministry of Economics and Commerce. Burmese exports to China were listed at $2.9 billion, with imports totaling more than $4 billion. China accounts for nearly 30 percent of Burma’s trade; Thailand is second with a total value of $5.5 billion. In 2013-14, Burma’s main exports to China and other nations were rice, corn, mung beans, pigeon peas, sesame, rubber, fishery products, teak, hardwood, raw metal, natural gas, jade and garments.
Philippines and Burma discuss aviation
Aviation officials from the two countries will meet in late May to discuss an air services agreement, ABS-CBN News reported on Friday. The Philippine ambassador to Burma told reporters that the talks could result in the first ever direct flight between the two Southeast Asian nations. Burma’s President Thein Sein travelled to Manila last year, where he penned several pacts with Philippine President Benigno Aquino III, including a visa-free travel agreement for citizens of the two countries.
Vehicle import tax creates $800m in revenue
Burma’s Internal Revenue Department has revealed statistics showing that more than US$800 million of revenue was generated over the past two years from vehicle import tax after the government relaxed import regulations. According to the data, more than 280,000 vehicles were imported to Burma, indicating an average of $3,000 was charged for each. Vehicle owners also pay $2,000- $3,000 registration fees, which increased the price of automobiles in Burma — two to five times higher than neighbouring countries. Less than one percent of people in Burma currently own a car.
Burma’s corruption remains investors’ biggest concern
Corruption is the top concern for businesses and investors in Burma, according to a survey commissioned by the UN, OECD and UMFCCI. About 20 percent of over 3,000 firms identified corruption as a “very severe obstacle” to their operations. Sixty percent said they had to pay bribes for registration, licences or permits. About half of the firms said they paid $500 in extra fees while about a dozen said extra fees exceeded $10,000. Access to skilled labour and technology were identified as the second and third biggest obstacles.
Myeik to Bangkok flights take off
Myanmar Union Express Charter Airline has launched flights between Mergui [Myeik] in southern Burma to Thai capital Bangkok starting from 8 May. Myeik is now the fourth most popular port of departure for Bangkok-bound flights from Burma after Rangoon, Mandalay and Naypyidaw. Round-trip tickets are being priced at US$140, and the service is running around twice a week.
Austria offers support on hydropower
Austria has pledged to provide Burma with technical support on hydropower generation, said Vienna’s visiting Transport, Innovation and Technology Minister Doris Bures upon signing MoUs with Burma’s Naypyidaw’s Electric Power and Transportation ministries on Thursday. DVB has learnt the assistance on the electricity sector will mainly focused on a high-technology project to generate hydropower on the Irrawaddy River without disrupting its flow.
China’s Exim to lend Burma $300m for road upgrade
Burma’s National Planning and Economic Development Ministry is reviewing terms for a US$300 million loan from China’s Exim Bank, according to a senior ministry official. The loan is intended to fund nationwide road upgrades. Interest rates and repayment deadlines are still under negotiation. Burma’s government came under fire over the past year for receiving a $100 million loan from Exim to build up the cooperatives sector, which critics say came with excessively high interest rates.
Govt cracks down on contraband
Burma’s Mobile Team announced this weekend it had seized over one billion kyat (US$1 million) worth of smuggled goods between August 2013 and the beginning of May this year from seven ports in Rangoon. The squad’s deputy-director, Myint Oo, said over 70 percent of all contraband, much of it foreign liquor, was confiscated following tips from members of the public. The official said that 48 raids were conducted by mobile teams during the last nine months at warehouses and onboard ships coming in to dock, 12 were instigated by tips from members of the public. Those particular raids yielded no less than 700 million kyat worth of illegal goods.
Chinese firm claims Hpa-an locals support cement factory project
Myanmar Jidong Cement Company, a subsidiary of Chinese multinational giant Tangshan Jidong, one of the world’s largest manufacturers of cement, has countered claims that local communities in Karen State capital Hpa-an are opposed to their building a factory in the area, saying it has the support of the people, and that it intends building the facility as soon as it has approval from the Karen State government and the Myanmar Investment Commission (MIC).
In an article on 29 April, DVB reported that plans for a cement factory near Hpa-an had met with “stark opposition” and that the majority of locals had refused to sign an agreement indicating approval for the plant, which if constructed could produce 5,000 tons of cement a day, the company says.