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Ups and Downs
The Burmese currency has strengthened, with the buying rate finishing on Friday at 973 kyat – up 7 kyat since 13 June – and the selling rate up 8 kyat over that period, to 978 from 970. Meanwhile over the two-week period, the price of gold increased to 678,000 kyat per tical, up from 657,100 kyat. Fuel prices remained the same, with petrol selling at 820 kyat per litre, diesel at 950 kyat per litre, and octane at 920 kyat per litre. The price of rice remains constant, with the cost of high-quality Pawhsanmwe rice selling from at 1,300 to 1,700 kyat per basket and low-quality Manawthukha rice going for 900 kyat per basket.
Philippine, Singaporean airlines to launch direct flights between Manila and Rangoon
Philippine airline Cebu Pacific Air and Singaporean airline Tigerair will introduce direct flights between Rangoon and Manila in the near future, according to Burma’s Department of Civil Aviation. The Aviation authorities of Burma and that of the Philippines signed a memorandum of understanding in May to launch direct flight services, though details have not yet been resolved. This decision comes on the heels of a visa-exemption agreement that the Philippines and Burma signed late last year.
Govt lauds Burma’s growth, foreign investment
Foreign investment and trade in Burma has grown significantly amid the implementation of a private sector reform strategy introduced by the government after it assumed office three years ago, according to official data. Foreign investment in Burma has increased from US$40 billion in 2011 to over $46 billion today, while trade has risen from $18 billion to $25 billion. The government statistics say that the number of foreign companies operating in Burma has increased dramatically from 40 in 2011 to more than 1,000.
Natural gas exports down by 12 percent
Burma’s natural gas exports were $3.2 billion, a decrease of 12 percent compared to the same period last year, according to Myanmar Business Today. Earnings from natural gas exports were $3.66 billion in 2012-13. Win Maw, a senior energy ministry official, told Myanmar Business Today that the slight drop in gas exports was due to allocation for domestic consumption, after the government redrafted an agreement with Thailand’s PTT.
IMF predicts GDP to reach 8.5 percent
The International Monetary Fund announced on 17 June that it expects Burma to continue strong economic growth, reaching 8.5 percent in real GDP growth for the fiscal year of 2014- 15. Yet the IMF warned of structural frailties that will threaten the prospects for long-term growth. The Fund alluded to the virtually non-existent tax revenue collection system and to an immature financial sector, which needs to be reformed and improved in order to accommodate international interest in Burma’s economy.
Shwedagon Pagoda attracted 30,000 foreigners in May
More than 30,000 foreigners visited Rangoon’s famed Shwedagon pagoda in May this year, according to Myanmar Business Today. Numbers from the pagoda’s Board of Trustees showed that Thai tourists were the most, reaching more than 6,700, followed by the Chinese at 3,000 and the South Koreans at 2,200.
Paddy fields may be used as collateral, says Central Bank
Burma’s Agriculture and Irrigation Deputy Minister Ohn Than said on Thursday that his ministry is devising a plan with the Central Bank to allow farmers to use their paddy fields as collateral in exchange for borrowing money from the Bank. Speaking in parliament, he said any loans would only be made for investments in agricultural projects. Discussions would continue on linking loans to conditions such as crop production, he said, adding that the Central Bank would announce interest rates and conditions in the near future.
Burma job boom
Nearly 200,000 jobs have been created and 400 foreign and domestic investments initiated during the three years of rule by the Thein Sein government, reported state-run Myanmar News Agency on Monday. The report said 50 investments were given the go-ahead in the first year of government, creating over 16,000 job opportunities, followed by 75,000-plus opportunities from nearly 160 investments the following year. Over the past 12 months, some 200 new businesses have created over 100,000 job opportunities, the report said.
GE to help Burma with energy infrastructure
US-based firm General Electric (GE) will assist Burma in developing the energy infrastructure necessary to begin addressing the country’s electricity needs, a Ministry of Electric Power representative said. According to Myanmar Business Today, Deputy Minister Maw Thar Htwe said that GE had provided the government with a roadmap to help Burma improve the infrastructure and the supply shortcomings. “On June 17, we received GE’s assessment and we are preparing to work with the company to support the country’s current electrical improvement plans,” he said. The plan will help with implementing proposed generation, distribution, and rural electrification reforms.
Chin State SEZs to be completed by March 2015
Two special economic zones in Chin State will be completed by March 2015, according to a state minister. Speaking to the Myanmar Business Today, Ram Mann, Chin State’s minister for planning and economy, said that the SEZs in state capital Hakha and Tedim will be completed at the end of fiscal year 2014. “The projects will prioritise businesses relating to automobiles, and the electricity for these industrial zones will be supplied through the national grid in Hakha,” he said.
Thai banks targets wealthy Burmese
Thailand’s Kasikornbank aims to target affluent customers in neighbouring countries as part of its efforts to push towards 10 percent growth in assets under management (AUM) for its wealth management business this year, according to a report in the Bangkok Post. Executive vice-president Pakorn Partanapat said wealth among Laotian business owners is increasing, propelled by their dynamic economic growth. This group will be KBank’s main focus, he said, adding that wealthy Burmese are another target.