Burma Business Roundup (Oct. 12, 2013)

By William Boot 12 October 2013

Indian Firms Spearhead Plans for Coal-fuelled Power Stations in Burma

Indian companies are reportedly leading plans to build two large coal-fuelled power stations in Burma.

The New Delhi-based Orange Powergen is the lead partner in a consortium to develop a 500-megawatt plant at Kyauktan in the Rangoon area, said various reports citing official sources in Burma.

Meanwhile, the major Indian energy company Tata Power is carrying out a feasibility study for another coal-fuelled plant at Pathein, according to The Hindu newspaper in New Delhi, quoted by the UPI news agency.

The report said a Tata plant would use “clean coal technology” using fuel imported from Indonesia. However, this would necessitate coal being shipped via Singapore and the Strait of Malacca at the southern tip of Malaysia.

Orange Powergen, which describes itself as specializing in renewable energy and not fossil fuels, will be partnered by Global Advisor Limited of Singapore and domestic firm Diamond Palace Services Company, said the Chinese news agency Xinhua.

Global Advisor is a financial-service business.

No timetable for development of a power plant at Kyauktan has been announced.

Numerous plans for new electricity-generating projects have been announced in the last year, but little progress has been made on any of them.

Taiwan Plans to Invest in Boosting Burma’s Rice Production

China’s renegade offshoot Taiwan is sending a major business delegation to Burma to explore trade and investment opportunities. The visit will focus on Burma’s rice industry.

A business team led by Taiwan’s International Economic Cooperation Association chief, Wang Chung-yu, will visit Rangoon in November, the Taipei Times reported.

The team will include businesspeople “in steel, cement and medical devices industries to explore business opportunities,” the newspaper said.

But foremost in Taiwan’s visit will be proposals to aid Burma’s rice industry, it said.

“Taiwan will launch a cooperation program on rice production with [Burma],” the Taipei Times said.

“Although the growth of rice yield has been highly uneven in [Burma], it has a large potential to produce more rice. We will work with [Burma] to develop rice varieties that can boost its food supplies under its climate conditions,” International Cooperation and Development Fund Secretary-General Tao Wen-lung told the paper.

SingTel Still Engaged in Investment with Burma’s DICA: Report

One of the losing bidders for a mobile telephone network license in Burma, Singapore Telecommunications or SingTel, is holding fresh talks on investment in the country, said a local report.

Managers of SingTel met the director general of the state Directorate of Investment and Company Administration (DICA), Aung Naing Oo, in Naypidaw, said Eleven Media.

SingTel, one of the biggest telecommunications companies in Asia, had been widely tipped to win one of two network licenses awarded in the middle of this year but they went to Norway’s Telenor and Ooredoo of Qatar.

However, SingTel “will cooperate with Ooredoo and Telenor in network expansion works and help [Burma] to build its own satellite system,” Eleven Media reported, citing local sources.

SingTel declined to comment on the report.

Financial Controls to be ‘Shared’ by Central Bank and Ministry of Finance

Control of Burma’s financial services is to be split between the newly reformed Myanmar Central Bank and the Ministry of Finance, the bank reportedly said.

The central bank will oversee the country’s private and state-owned banks but other financial agencies will be under the control of the ministry, Eleven Media quoted central bank vice governor Khin Saw Oo as saying.

A new draft law covering the operation of financial institutions is due to be made public before the end of October, said Khin Saw Oo. It is being drafted by the bank with help from the World Bank, he told Eleven Media.

“The independent Central Bank will administer 22 state-owned and private banks in [Burma] to maintain the country’s financial stability, but micro-finance institutions will be kept under the control of the Ministry of Finance,” Khin Saw Oo was quoted as saying.

Tourism Operators Protest Add-on Fees as Popular Sites Cash In

Foreign tour operators have complained about “extra fees” being added to various popular tourist attractions in Burma which are angering visitors, the travel industry magazine TTR Weekly reported.

The issue was highlighted after managers of the Mandalay Hill sightseeing attraction suddenly cancelled plans to charge the equivalent of US $2 for access to the hill, said the paper.

The managers said the new fee would be postponed indefinitely because new facilities were not yet completed, it said.

“However, it is very likely that the board deferred the decision in response to criticism by the travel trade and even some government officials who are concerned about individual historical sites adding their own fees to cash in on a tourism boom,” said TTR Weekly.

Tourism is one of Burma’s most rapidly growing sources of income as more foreigners hurry to visit the country, but there have been many complaints about rip-off prices, especially for accommodation.