The Irrawaddy Business Roundup
By Zaw Zaw Htwe 25 April 2020
Myanmar is seeing daily developments in the economic and social impacts of COVID-19 as the number of cases in country rises.
This week, the World Bank announced that it will supply Myanmar with a US$50 million loan to upgrade the country’s hospitals.
The government is working to stabilize commodity prices and has announced that it will buy reserves of rice and cooking oil.
The government says it will compensate factory workers for around 10 days of unpaid wages as the country’s factories have been ordered to suspend operations from April 20 to 30 so that they can set up preventative measures for COVID-19.
The Myanmar Lottery Business Federation has called on the government to postpone the upcoming lottery drawing as most lottery tickets remain unsold due to preventative COVID-19 lockdowns.
World Bank supplies Myanmar with US$50 million loan
The World Bank announced Monday that it will grant a US$50 million loan to Myanmar to support the country’s efforts to combat COVID-19.
The loan will be used to fund a program to improve the country’s hospitals in an effort to slow the outbreak of the coronavirus, according to the World Bank. The loan will fund upgrades to 51 hospital across different states and regions, including to eight central-level hospitals in large cities.
Besides the World Bank loan, Myanmar has also received $4 million in support from the Asia Development Bank as well as $5 million from the European Union (EU), a spokesperson from the Ministry of Investment and Foreign Economic Relations told The Irrawaddy.
Myanmar to buy reserve rice and cooking oil to stabilize commodity prices
Myanmar plans to buy reserve rice and cooking oil in order to control the prices of commodities that could be impacted by the global pandemic.
The government says it will buy 50,000 tons of rice and 12,000 tons of cooking oil for 38 billion kyats (US$26.6 million), according to the Ministry of Commerce.
“We have approved the use of 38 billion kyats. We will start buying reserve rice and oil on April 27,” said U Khin Maung Lwin, assistant permanent secretary of the Ministry of Commerce.
Myanmar consumes 660,000 tons of rice per month. Though the country suspended rice exports for April in order to ensure there was enough to meet domestic demand, the government will allow the export of 150,000 tons of rice in May.
Lottery Business Federation asks to postpone lottery drawing
The Myanmar Lottery Business Federation has asked the government to postpone the upcoming lottery drawing on May 1 since many lottery tickets are still unsold due to the impacts of COVID-19.
U Thein Tun, vice chairman of the Lottery Business Federation told The Irrawaddy on Thursday that sales of lottery tickets have halted at the moment due to the country’s lockdowns.
He said that only one-third of all lottery tickets issued by the government for this month have been sold and that most tickets are now stranded in the hands of sales agents due to the impacts of COVID-19.
Lottery businessmen said that they have lost 30 percent of their capital since the previous lottery drawing because of the unsold tickets.
“Now we are unable to sell the tickets because there are no lottery customers, so we are asking the government to postpone the lottery drawing for a while,” said U Thein Tun.
U Min Hut, director general of the Internal Revenue Department at the Ministry of Planning and Finance, recently told the media that the lottery drawing ceremony will be postponed until May 15. However, the ministry has not made an official announcement and the Lottery Business Federation is still waiting for confirmation.
Myanmar factories to suspend operations for 10 more days
After closing for the Thingyan Water Festival holiday from April 12 to 19, Myanmar’s factories have been instructed to suspend operations for an additional 10 days in order to set up COVID-19 preventive measures for workers in line with the instructions of the Ministry of Health and Sports (MOHS).
This week, the Ministry of Labor, Immigration and Population announced that it will allow only factories that have set up preventive measure to combat COVID-19 to resume operations.
The health and labor ministries are both now rushing to inspect factories to assess whether they have adopted measure to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
Government inspection teams have prioritized inspections for pharmaceutical factories, followed by food-stuff factories and then any factories that have already set up preventative measures and notifies the ministry.
Any factories that employ more than 1,000 workers will be inspected later in the process.
A spokesperson for the Labor Ministry told The Irrawaddy this week that they will try to finish their inspections by April 30 in order to ensure that factories can resume operations quickly.
Government promises payments for workers during COVID-19 factory closure
As the country’s factories have suspended operations, the Ministry of Social Welfare, Relief and Resettlement says it will provide social security benefits for workers who have paid social security fees.
U Nyunt Win, director general of the Ministry of Labor’s Factories and General Labor Laws Inspection Department, told The Irrawaddy that the government is still determining how to calculate this social security payment.
He added that only employees who are registered with the government’s social safety net will be entitled to payments.
“Employees won’t suffer. They will get what they are entitled to despite the closures. But we are concerned that industrial disputes might arise and we have urged them to settle disputes through negotiations,” said U Nyunt Win.
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