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Business weekly 3 July

Ups and downs

The Burmese currency on Friday was valued at 1,125 kyat per US dollar, 834.26 kyat to the Singapore dollar, 17.74 to the Indian rupee, and 33.32 to the Thai baht. Gold was buying at 40,129.49 kyat per gram, and selling at 44,353.65 per gram.

Coca-Cola hits back at military link claims

Coca-Cola has defended its business practices in Burma after an international industry watchdog pointed out connections between the corporation’s local partner and the US Treasury-blacklisted company Myanmar Economic Holdings Limited.

Prior to recommencing business in Burma, the drinks giant insisted it had conducted “comprehensive” due diligence checks in the years 2009 to 2012 “based on the information at the time”. But it wasn’t until Global Witness alerted Coca-Cola to these links that the conglomerate realised that its only local director in Burma, Shwe Cynn, was also a shareholder in the jade mining company Xie Family.

Read the full DVB story here.

Burma moves up income bracket

Burma has moved up into the lower-middle income bracket with a Gross National Income (GNI) per capita reaching over US$1,046, according to the World Bank. The institute’s chief economist and senior vice-president said that the GNI remains the “central yardstick” for assessing economic performance and development. The bank’s latest figures show marked economic improvement in many low-income countries, with Bangladesh, Kenya and Tajikistan also moving up with Burma.

Thilawa project steaming ahead

Burmese and Japanese officials met on 30 June to sign off on an assistance loan agreement of approximately 26 billion Yen (US$212 million) extended from Tokyo to Naypyidaw to aid in development projects, according to state media. The money will reportedly be spent on infrastructure development in the Thilawa Special Economic Zone, as well as electrification schemes around Rangoon, and development for small- and medium-sized enterprises.

With business operations soon to start in the zone, Japanese corporation Fuji is set to launch a website advertising job vacancies and skill-development courses for future employees. The company says it plans to conduct vocational training courses for residents displaced by the project, teaching skills such as machinery operation, Japanese and English language, information technology and accounting.

Colonel Sanders comes to town

US chain KFC opened its first outlet in Burma’s commercial capital Rangoon on Tuesday, becoming the first major Western fast-food chain to establish a foothold in the once-isolated country.

Read the full DVB story here.

IMF cautions Burma despite promise of growth

A consultation team from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) who visited Burma through June has cautioned finance officials against the “downside risks” of the country’s development. Such risks include persistent dollar strength and low natural gas prices, which the IMF said may weaken Burma’s fiscal position. The team recommended the government tighten monetary and fiscal policies to contain inflationary pressure and anchor exchange rate expectations in order to reduce financial sector risks.

Thein Sein pushes for more Japanese investment

President Thein Sein is visiting Tokyo over the weekend with the aim of attracting more investment from Japan to promote economic development. According to Japanese broadcaster NHK News, the president acknowledged that Burma is still at a low level of economic development, but said he hoped Japan will invest in a variety of areas to improve infrastructure and create jobs. Thein Sein is to attend the Mekong-Japan Summit on Saturday.


Thai property giant views Rangoon office space

CP Land Plc, the property arm of agribusiness conglomerate Charoen Pokphand Group, plans to pay US$16 million this year to take over an office building in Rangoon. Vice-president Naravadee Waravanitcha said that soaring demand for office space in the Burmese commercial capital had prompted the company to invest. CP Land will sign a memorandum of understanding to buy an eight-storey office building from a local owner.

Read the full DVB story here.

Burma approves 13 more firms

Thirteen more domestic and international firms have been approved to do business in Burma, according to state media, bringing the total number of companies given the green light for operation in the country to 28. These new businesses include wood finishing and timber processing, garment manufacturers and maintenance services. In the last fiscal year, Burma approved US$8 billion worth of foreign investment from 211 companies across 38 countries.

Germany pledges $27m for development in Burma

Germany has pledged US$27 million to facilitate development in Burma, according to state media. Approximately $5.5 million of these funds are earmarked for infrastructure programs in Shan State, such as improving transportation in rural areas to ensure people are able to access markets, schools and hospitals. Other funded projects will include development of banking systems, boosts for small and medium sized enterprises, and sustainable mining practices.


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