YANGON – Business activity in Myanmar has been slowly coming back to life this month after the rate of new COVID-19 cases has slowed, including two days with no new cases.
This week, Myanmar approved more than 3.5 billion kyats (US$2.5 million) for the country’s industrial and tourism employers, to help reduce the economic impact of COVID-19. An economic impact assessment by the government is due in June to help quantify the impact.
Meanwhile, Sri Lanka has offered to buy crops and fishery products from Myanmar.
Myanmar has also been added to the European Union’s money-laundering blacklist because of alleged deficiencies in combating money laundering and in countering terrorist financing. Due to the pandemic, the Asia-Pacific Fifth Oil and Gas Conference, which was due next week in Yangon, has been postponed until October.
Govt offers private-sector loans
The Myanmar government approved 3.5 billion kyats in the third phase of loans to 111 industrial and tourism firms on Thursday from the COVID-19 relief fund set up by the government in late March, according to the Ministry of Investment and Foreign Economic Relations (MIFER).
The committee to address the impact of COVID-19 on the country’s economy, led by minister U Thaung Tun, approved the loans at Thursday’s meeting.
The committee said it is analyzing other loan applications.
In the first and second phases, nearly 200 companies were granted loans by the committee from the COVID-19 fund.
Economic impact assessment due next month
Myanmar’s government is drawing up a COVID-19 economic impact assessment to identify the sectors most badly hit by the pandemic.
MIFER permanent secretary U Aung Naing OO said the assessment will be published at the end of June and include policies and recovery plans.
The government is surveying the risks to businesses, including how they can revive post-COVID-19. The DaNa Facility, UN Capital Development Fund (UNCDF) and International Trade Center are helping in drawing up the assessment.
The move comes a week after the government launched its economic relief plan to flatten the coronavirus curve without flattening Myanmar’s economy by implementing new measures and responses ranging from monetary reforms and increasing government spending to strengthening the health-care system.
Since early February, Myanmar’s economy has slowed significantly and the World Bank warned that GDP growth is projected to slow to between 2 and 3 percent this fiscal year due to the pandemic, with poor households likely to be hit the hardest.
Sri Lanka makes food orders
The Sri Lankan government has offered to buy 10 foodstuffs from Myanmar, according to the Ministry of Commerce.
Dr. Thet Lwin Oo, deputy director of Myanmar International Trade Center, told The Irrawaddy that Sri Lanka planned to buy canned fish, sprat, lentils, mung beans, cowpeas, onions, beans, garlic, chili and coriander.
He said a list of companies that want to fulfill the Sri Lankan orders would be published.
About six companies from Myanmar have proposed to the Ministry of Commerce to export food to Sri Lanka.
“This is the first time Sri Lanka has ordered food from Myanmar,” said Dr. Thet Lwin Oo.
He said the 10 items were not on Myanmar’s urgent provisions list.
Myanmar on EU’s money-laundering blacklist
Myanmar’s government has been added to the EU’s money-laundering blacklist because of poor financial regulations and monitoring of terrorist financing, according to the European Commission, the EU’s executive branch.
The Bahamas, Barbados, Botswana, Cambodia, Ghana, Jamaica, Mauritius, Mongolia, Nicaragua, Panama and Zimbabwe are also on the list of high-risk countries with strategic deficiencies in anti-money laundering and terrorist financing monitoring.
Meanwhile, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Ethiopia, Guyana, Lao, Sri Lanka and Tunisia were removed from the list, said the European Commission.
The EU’s latest move will pose risks for international banks who are interested in investing in Myanmar’s financial markets. It will also increase international pressure on the government while it faces the fallout from COVID-19.
Oil and Gas Conference postponed
The Fifth Oil and Gas Conference, which was scheduled in Yangon this month, has been postponed until October 20-22, according to the American Association of Petroleum Geologists (AAPG).
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