Ups and downs
The Burmese currency remains fairly stable, selling at 964 kyat to the US dollar, while the buying rate is 963. The price of gold has dropped to 659,000 kyat per tical, that’s 2,600 kyat down from last week. Fuel remains the same and has not gone up for nearly a year – petrol stands at 820 kyat, diesel 950 kyat and octane 920 kyat per litre. Rice has gone up though – quality Pawhsanmwe rice now selling in Rangoon for 1,300 to 1,600 kyat per basket as opposed to 1,200 to 1,300 less than a month ago.
Offshore oil and gas block winners announced
Burma’s Ministry of Energy announced the winners of 20 offshore oil concessions – ten shallow-water, ten deep-water – on 26 March, the results of the country’s first open exploration and production tendering process for offshore resources.
Unlike earlier concessions granted to foreign oil firms, the winning companies are mostly based in Europe, the United States and Australia, although two Indian bidders – industrial conglomerate Reliance and a consortium led by state-run Oil India – were granted two shallow-water concessions each. Exploration and production activities currently take place in 18 blocks off the coast of Burma, dominated by Asian firms – including Thailand’s PTTEP, Malaysia’s Petronas, and CNOOC from China – granted concessions by Burma’s old military regime.
Shangri-La gets World Bank backing
The International Finance Corporation (IFC), a branch of the World Bank, has pledged a loan of US$80 million to subsidiaries of Shangri-La Asia Ltd to expand operations in Burma. A statement by the IFC on 26 March said the loan will provide assistance for the expansion of the Traders Hotel in downtown Rangoon to increase its capacity from 270 to 485 rooms, as well as for construction of the 240-suite luxury Shangri-La Residences overlooking Kandawgyi Lake.
Man United sign food sponsorship deal for Burma
English football giants Manchester United announced on Monday a sponsorship deal with a leading Thai company, EuroFood, which now becomes the club’s official partner in Cambodia, Laos, Burma, Thailand and Vietnam. The three-and-a-half year sponsorship will see the famous Manchester United crest and imagery displayed on EuroFood products in the five countries starting in April, the club said on its website.
Tobacco products to feature graphic health warnings
Cigarette companies may soon be forced to feature graphic photographs depicting the potential health impacts of smoking on products sold in Burma. The Ministry of Health’s Tobacco Control Project (TCP) is drafting a bill which would insist that 30-40 percent of a product’s package is covered with a graphic health-related image. Currently, tobacco products sold in Burma must only display written health warnings. The TCP says it has collected a series of images and submitted them to the ministry to have them appear on packaging.
Mitsubishi Electric moves into Rangoon
Mitsubishi Electric Asia Pte Ltd, a subsidiary of the Japanese conglomerate Mitsubishi, announced this week that it will open a branch office in Rangoon. According to a statement released Tuesday, the office in Burma’s financial centre will be set up to “conduct market research, information and provide support for infrastructure projects and local distributors.” Mitsubishi is set to be a dominant player in the burgeoning Burmese manufacturing sector. The Japanese firm is now brokering investment deals within Burma’s controversial Thilawa Special Economic Zone.
Thilawa SEZ seeks only serious relationships
Plots of land at the Thilawa Special Economic Zone will go on sale to bidders in early May, but only to businesses which are committed to developing the economic zone and generating employment, said Win Aung, the president of Thilawa SEA Holdings Public Ltd, speaking at talks with a Hong Kong business mission in Rangoon on 31 March. He said the zone’s operators will introduce a monitoring system under which plots left unused will be reclaimed.
Burma gets $55m to upgrade public finance system
The World Bank, the Australian government and the UK Department for International Development are to invest US$55 million to help modernise Burma’s public financial management system and ensure spending is targeted on the right sectors, according to a report on Thursday by Public Finance International. The project is expected to boost revenue administration and increase the efficiency of tax and non-tax revenue mobilization, the report said.
Govt to investigate illegal mobile phone imports
Mobile phone stores will be targeted as the Burmese Government launches an attempt to crack down on illegally imported goods in the country. A task force has been assigned to investigate potential breaches of customs law in the import of mobile telephones. According to a member of the task force, millions of mobile phones were being sold and used in the country however customs duties have only been paid on 70,000 imported phones in the past three years.
Japan announces funding for UN programmes in Burma
Coinciding with Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida’s visit to Burma last week, Japan announced 1.6 billion yen (US$16m) in support for UN programmes in Burma. The funds will assist UNHCR, UNICEF and the World Food Programme (WFP), according to a UN press release. The contribution is part of an overall US$75.2 million aid package, which will also fund government projects such as hospital and railway infrastructure upgrades, according to state media.