covering burma and southeast asia
Sunday, November 18, 2018




Burma to be ‘Darkest Place in Southeast Asia’

Most of the electricity in downtown Rangoon comes from privately owned diesel generators. (Photo: AP)
Plans announced by Cambodia to deliver electricity to most of the country by the end of 2013 will leave Burma in the dark. Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen said his proposal to develop a national electricity grid over the next three years will result in most of the country’s 14 million people being connected to regular electricity. At present, only 25 percent of Cambodians are linked into a central power grid, while many rely on individual diesel generators, as in Burma. “On a per capita basis, this will put Burma way behind. It’s doubtful if 25 percent of Burma’s 50 million population has regular electricity and there are no plans there to develop a national transmission infrastructure,” said regional energy industries consultant Collin Reynolds in Bangkok.

Burmese Businesses Not Ready for AFTA

Burmese entrepreneurs have raised concerns that they will be unable to compete with tax-exempt imports from other members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) when the Asean Free Trade Agreement (AFTA) goes into effect in Burma and three other countries in the region in 2015. The agreement, which already applies to Asean’s more economically advanced members, will require Burma, Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam to eliminate import duties on goods from other Asean countries by Jan. 1, 2015. Business owners at an industrial zone in Rangoon said that they are already struggling just to keep their enterprises operating due to the country’s lack of infrastructure and high production costs associated with economic restrictions under military rule.

FEC Falling on Rumors It’s on the Way Out

Concerns that Burma’s Foreign Exchange Certificates (FEC) could be taken out of circulation after this year’s election in November have caused the value of the unit—technically worth US $1—to fall steadily since August, according to foreign currency dealers in Rangoon. By the end of September, one FEC was worth 827 kyat, compared to a rate of 930 kyat to the US dollar. A manager at the Myanmar Economic Bank said that the decline in the value of the FEC was probably due to rumors that new financial policies will be implemented after the election, including the elimination of the FEC. There was little difference in the value of the dollar and the FEC in the first half of the year, with the FEC actually selling for more than the dollar in some months.

Junta to Get 30 Billion Yuan Loan

China has agreed to give Burma a 30 billion yuan (US $4.2 billion) interest-free loan. The agreement was reached during junta chief Snr-Gen Than Shwe’s five-day state visit to China on Sept. 7-11, according to Burma’s Ministry of National Planning and Economic Development (MNPED). The 30-year loan is intended to help fund mass hydropower projects, road construction, railway development and information technology development, said an MNPED official. Burma also received a $1.2 billion loan from China in 2009 for economic development and information technology development.

China Oil Will Flow Through Burma in 2013

A link-up between an oil transshipment port on Burma’s coast at Ramree Island and a refinery being built in China’s Yunnan Province will be achieved by the end of 2013. Work on a US $1 billion pipeline from the port through Burma into Yunnan has already begun, but there have been delays in beginning the refinery at Anning, outside the Yunnan capital of Kunming. However, the main developer of the entire project, China National Petroleum Corporation, confirmed that the oil will flow to the refinery by the end of 2013 as part of China’s regional security strategy to reduce the volume of oil imported from Africa and the Middle East passing through the narrow Malacca Strait between Malaysia and Indonesia.

Thai State Firm Handed 3G Network

Thailand’s government approved a budget of 19.9 billion baht (US $650 million) for TOT Plc, a state-run telephone firm, to invest in 3G technology on its existing network.

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