Burma Business Roundup (Saturday, Feb. 9)

By William Boot 9 February 2013

Japan to Give Training Skills to Aid Business Development

The Japan Business Federation is to spearhead a program of training in Rangoon to provide Burmese with better business and legal skills.

“The key to Japanese companies doing business in [Burma] is whether they can hire local people well trained in business, as well as improvements in infrastructure, such as a stable supply of electricity,” the federation was quoted by Japanese public broadcaster NHK.

An agreement to establish the training program was reached with Burma’s Chamber of Commerce during a four-day visit to Rangoon by Japanese federation chairman Hiromasa Yonekura leading a team of business chiefs.

The training was needed to “help create a business-friendly environment,” the two business groups said.

The Burmese chamber urged the Japanese federation to try to help speed up development of the Thilawa special economic zone on the edge of Rangoon by providing more engineering expertise.

“The two sides will also together put pressure on [Burma’s] government to speed up the process of issuing visas to foreign business people,” NHK reported.

Tourism Managers Go to School to Learn about Burma

An “academy” to give tourism managers guidance on Burma and other emerging Southeast Asian holiday destinations has been established in Bangkok.

The program is being organized by the Pacific Asia Travel Association

“It is a six-day course for rising stars, mid-to-senior managers who want to have an intense expansion of their knowledge about global trends, travel and tourism,” PATA chief executive Martin Craigs told Travel Trade Weekly.

“Apart from entry-level training, middle managers of destinations such as Laos, Cambodia, Myanmar (Burma) and Vietnam can learn a lot by attending the new PATAcademy in Bangkok,” said Craigs.

Burma has seen a big surge in tourist visits to the country in the last 12 months. The government said up to 1 million visitors to the country were logged in 2012 and a higher number is expected in 2013.

Suzuki to Restart Rangoon Vehicle Factory in May

Japan’s Suzuki Motor Corporation is to re-open its Rangoon production plant in May to build pickup trucks.

The factory, which has been closed since 2010, will start by producing 100 vehicles a month and will provide about 80 jobs, Suzuki said in a statement.

“We plan to expand production and sales of four-wheel vehicles from now on,” it said after talks with the Burmese government which resulted in a new manufacturing license.

Suzuki is also considering developing a new vehicle factory in Burma, but this is only at the discussion stage, Chairman Osamu Suzuki said.

Suzuki produced thousands of motorbikes in Burma during the 10 years up to 2010 in a joint venture which ended when its business license expired.

Burma’s customs office disclosed this week that almost 130,000 cars were imported into the country in the 15 months up to January this year. Almost half of them were second-hand. About 2,000 were for use by the Ministry of Hotels and Tourism, it said.

Better Money ‘to Keep Burmese Migrants in Thailand’

Higher minimum wages introduced in Thailand this year will deter thousands of Burmese migrants from returning home to help rebuild their own country, a study says.

In the short term this will be better for both countries, said Premjai Wangsiripaisarn of the Asian Research Center for Migration at Chulalongkorn University’s Institute of Asian Studies.

Thailand has a labor shortage and higher wages—at least for legally registered foreign workers—means Burmese will be able to send home more money, Premjai said in her survey of plans by Burmese migrants.

“Most Myanmar migrant workers are able to find work easily here and earn enough so they can send money home,” Premjai said.

There was little evidence to support the concerns of Thai businesses that migrant workers will be in a hurry to return to Burma and spark a labor crisis in Thailand.

The Asian Research Center for Migration carried out a survey of Burmese migrant workers between July and August 2012 and found about 10 percent of them planned visits back home soon, but most said they planned to return to Thailand to work, Premaji said.

Nearly 2 million Burmese are estimated to be working in Thailand. The minimum legal wage increased this year in Thailand to 300 baht (US$10) per day. Illegal migrants are unlikely to get this much, however.