Saturday, November 25, 2017
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YANGON – Myanmar needs to invest US$45 billion to $60 billion in transport projects over the next 15 years, to improve connectivity with neighbours and ensure equitable distribution of economic growth, Asian Development Bank officials have said.

“Every year, Myanmar will need about $4 billion. This is a big number. That is why we have the transport policy note, especially to help the government address some problems for projects over the next couple of years,” Bambang Susantono, ADB vice president for knowledge management and sustainable development, said.

ADB last week launched a new report entitled “Myanmar: Transport Sector Policy Note”, which has recommendations for the civilian government. The report says 20 million people, or about half of rural population, live in villages without access to an all-season road, as the country only invested 1 to 1.5 per cent of gross domestic product (GDP) in transport improvement over the past decade.

New investment could save logistics costs by 30 per cent and save lives lost every year due to poor road safety.

Susantono said the ADB was ready to allocate at least $100 million per year over the next five years. Better transport would mean higher economic growth and equitable distribution of development to all Myanmar people. Rural road development was as important as urban transport infrastructure, he said.

Adrien Veron-Okamoto, ADB transport economist for Southeast Asia, noted that at a similar level of development, other countries in this region typically invest 3-5 per cent of their GDP in transport infrastructure.

With a higher budget, Myanmar should allocate the money to key national corridors, Yangon infrastructure and maintenance work. Yielding the highest impact on the public would be investment in bus rapid transit lines, parking and traffic management and circular railways in Yangon. Equally important was the upgrade of national and international corridors, like the road link from Myawaddy to Muse, the modernisation of the rail link from Yangon to Mandalay, implementation of low-cost navigation aids in the Ayeyarwaddy River, plus improving access to rural areas.

Myanmar was also urged to explore new water transport options.

He stressed that Myanmar needs a new policy to increase transport investment. A unitary ministry should take charge of the job, and state-owned enterprises should be corporatised for greater autonomy.

Myanma Railways which is supervised by the Transport and Communications Ministry should be corporatised as soon as possible, as its revenue covered only half of operating costs and losses during 2013-15, amounting to about $80 billion. The report urged the government to seek funds from development partners for mega-projects.

ADB country director for Myanmar Winfried Wicklein said the bank planned to provide aid of about $350 million per year to Myanmar, 85-90 per cent of which goes into infrastructure, notably transport and energy. Better connectivity with neighbouring countries is a priority.

“We are focusing on big cities like Mandalay… Aside from Mandalay, we work in other regions and states, mostly in the nation’s economic corridors (eg Mon State near the East-West economic corridor). We are trying to support local governments to improve infrastructure there,” he said.

Wicklein said the ADB was considering co-financing models in infrastructure projects and providing grants for environmental issues and climate change. The bank has worked on several projects with the France Development Agency.

“We are very open to other partners in our discussions. The AIIB [Asia Infrastructure Investment Bank] has just started operations. So we do not have any concrete updates in this regard. But we are open to work with all partners,” he said.

Thailand joins Myanmar in banning movie

Posted by pakin On July - 7 - 2016 ADD COMMENTS

“Twilight Over Burma”, a film about a Shan prince and his Austrian bride, was not just banned in the land of its origin, but also in Thailand where it was mostly filmed.

The film was removed from the Thailand International Film Destinations festival as well as from last month’s Human Rights festival in Myanmar.

Though the organisers have not issued any official statement, the reason behind the withdrawal is said to be related to bilateral ties between the two countries.

The film, known in Thai as “Singsaengchan” is based on the book “Twilight Over Burma – My Life as a Shan Princess” written by Inge Eberhard (now Sargent). Sargent was an Austrian student on a US scholarship who fell in love with Sao Kya Seng, a young mining student from Burma, in the 1950s. On their wedding day, she discovers that he is the prince of Myanmar’s Shan State. Her husband ends up being jailed after the military coup in 1962 and she is unable to do anything.

In reality though, the prince disappeared and Sargent fled to the United States with her two daughters. In the film Sargent is played by German actress Maria Ehrich, while Sao Kya Seng’s character is played by Thai actor Daweerit Chullasapya.

The film was mainly shot in Chiang Mai province and at Inle Lake in Shan State’s capital Tongyi.

“Twilight” was one of the four films withdrawn from the festival line-up.

Starting yesterday at Bangkok’s Paragon Cineplex, the three other films removed from the festival line-up were the Chinese comedy “Detective Chinatown”, Swedish comedy “Happy Hour in Paradise” and French comedy “Pattaya.”

“Detective Chinatown” was released in local cinemas in April.

The festival runs until July 12 and features films from different countries that have been shot either partially or fully in Thailand. This festival held annually since 2013 aims to promote Thailand as a film location.

The scripts of foreign films featuring Thailand have to be first submitted to the Thailand Film Office before shooting can begin. The government aims to encourage more international film productions in Thailand and has recently announced a 15 per cent cash incentive.

Mobile financial services promising in Myanmar

Posted by pakin On February - 1 - 2016 ADD COMMENTS

YANGON – A BOOM in mobile financial services (MFS) is anticipated, thanks to the rapid increase in penetration rate and poor infrastructure in Myanmar, according to Takashi Shigeno, director of KDDI Summit Global Corporation.

He cited three main reasons for this.

“Firstly, more than 70 per cent of the population live in rural areas. Secondly, only 20-25 per cent of adults have bank accounts. Thirdly, Myanmar has a lot of infrastructure deficiencies. There are a lot of difficulties to access banking facilities and power shortages,” Shigeno said at the Mobile Money & E-Commerce Summit 2016 last week.

The draft of mobile financial service regulations was completed recently with the support of Japan’s Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ (BTMU), KDDI and its local partner Myanmar Posts and Telecommunication (MPT), who are cooperating with BTMU to provide mobile money services in Myanmar.

According to Shigeno, many products will soon be available and the market is likely to evolve quickly.

MPT aims to provide mobile financial services in three phases, starting later this year. Initially, it will allow cash-in (deposit), peer-to-peer transfer, self airtime top-up, international remittances, and basic bill payment. In the second phase in 2017-2018, extensive merchant bills payment and links to mobile shopping will be introduced. In the third phase scheduled to start in 2019, saving products, basic loans and insurance products will be introduced.

Shigeno noted that service providers should not focus just on sales and signing customers up. Instead, they need to educate customers and incentivise regular usage. Agents must be trained for long-term success.

Strong agent network management is the “make or break” factor in the success of the mobile money business, he said.

Richard Buttenshaw, commercial director of ConnectNPay, noted that Myanmar needs to leapfrog in terms of technology.

“I see Myanmar as the last frontier for the telecommunication industry. As Myanmar is such an exciting market that we now have a chance to shape a future economy. We need to change the face of business and society for the better things to come,” he said.

Buttenshaw highlighted the need to ensure service providers in place and cooperate with Yangon City Development Committee (YCDC), as Yangon is a commercial hub. He also urged YCDC to widen its base. It currently has four departments.

Oo Thein Myint, chief compliance officer and deputy general manager of CB Bank, said in an earlier interview that mobile banking will become the most promising and popular service in the near future, as it is the most convenient for all users.

“Now almost everyone has at least one mobile phone. Some local banks such as CB and Aya Bank have implemented mobile banking,” he said.

CB Bank has built up an agent network to promote their services.

Myanmar trade leader cites optimism

Posted by pakin On November - 12 - 2015 ADD COMMENTS

A REPRESENTATIVE of Myan-mar’s private sector has welcomed the National League for Democracy’s apparent victory in the country’s election, but warned that changes should be executed step by step to ensure a smooth political transition and further economic development. In an exclusive interview with The Nation a day after the historic election, Maung Maung Lay, vice president of the Union of Myanmar Federation of Chambers of Commerce and Industry, repeatedly exclaimed: “The optimism is there!”

Referring to the high voter turnout and the opposition party’s landslide win, he said the people had spoken. “It is their voice. Everyone expects changes.”

The road ahead is cleared for the NLD to form the government, he added. He does not expect the military to stand in the way of people’s desires, as senior generals are educated and have learned lessons.

“The legacy of the military is not good and they must reclaim professionalism.

“It is natural for the strong to dominate the weak. But even if they have power, they should not exercise it irresponsibly without thinking about their kin and relatives. Where will they stand?” he said.

“It is natural for the strong to dominate the weak. But even if they have power, they should not exercise it irresponsibly without thinking about their kin and relatives. Where will they stand?” he said.

Noting that its members are well trained and disciplined, he said the army could play a professional role if national budgets are sufficiently allocated.

With about 400,000 men in service, under good leadership Myanmar’s army can also contribute to regional stability.

“The Lady speaks the same language. She understands the army’s role and importance,” he said, referring to NLD leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

Eventual-ly, he expects the military seats in parliament to be gradually reduced.

For now, the challenge is for the winners, he said. They should be humble and treat their adversaries properly. After toppling the incumbent government, the NLD also needs to be careful charting its policies.

“The boat may capsize if we change course abruptly. The party that topples an incumbent government needs to do things step by step to change the country,” Maung Maung Lay said.

The other challenge concerns the huge public expectations.

“The huge task for those who have won is to deliver [practical results], not only words. If they cannot deliver, they will be in real trouble,” he said, noting that their performance would determine their popularity in later days.

Expectations are high that the country’s 135 ethnic groups will be reunited through a reconciliation process, that the rule of law is restored, and that human-rights infringements are addressed, he said.

The nationwide ceasefire agreement has been delayed because of a lack of trust.

“There are many races in the United States but it can be powerful. Myanmar can be more powerful if the government has wisdom and is prudent,” he said.

Maung Maung Lay said he was saddened that Myanmar had been pulled backwards by division. Decades ago, the country was so prosperous that he thought it would be the key member of Asean. But under military rule, from being a model of Asian countries, Myanmar became a pariah state, “a leper” in the region.

“We are one nation. Together, we [will] grow and we can regain the past glory,” he said.

Sunday’s election marked a good start for Myanmar as well as Asean, Surin Pitsuwan, the bloc’s former secretary-general, said in Thailand yesterday at a seminar on the prospects for the Thai economy next year.

He expects the Myanmar economy will continue to grow and it will become one of the strongest and most attractive investment destinations among foreigners.

“Many foreign countries will look at expanding their trade and investment in Myanmar,” he said.

As its neighbour, Thailand should take this opportunity to outline clear strategies to penetrate the market, he said.

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