The Irrawaddy Business Roundup
By Zaw Zaw Htwe 4 July 2020
Myanmar saw the deaths this week of more than 170 jade miners, as of Friday afternoon, in a landslide at a mine in Hpakant, Kachin State on Thursday morning.
Though the whole country remains on alert over COVID-19, which has killed 6 people in Myanmar since March, the catastrophe was a reminder that the country still needs to be aware of such man-made disasters.
This week, Myanmar has resumed rice exports after stockpiling enough for local demand.
Six European Union states suspended Myanmar’s debt payments for the remainder of the year in order to allow the country to focus on economic recovery from the pandemic. Meanwhile, Myanmar allocated 14.6 billion kyats (US$10.6 million) in loans for 307 enterprises impacted by COVID-19. Myanmar also saw four new investments that are projected to create job opportunities for more than 3,000 people in Ayeyarwady region.
Myanmar lifts restrictions on rice exports
As of Wednesday, Myanmar rice exporters are allowed to export rice to overseas countries independently as the Myanmar government lifted its restrictions on the sector, according to the Ministry of Commerce.
After Myanmar reported its first COVID-19 cases, the government limited rice exports and instructed rice traders to sell rice to the state in order to increase reserves and allow the government to control the rice market.
The Ministry of Commerce has now allowed rice traders to export 150,000 tons of rice per month for July and August. Rice traders are still required to make 5 percent of their total sales to the government for the country’s rice reserves
The government expects rice exports to total 400,000 tons during each of the next three months.
The government also urged the Myanmar Rice Federation to work to meet a total export target of 2.4 million tons for the 2019-2020 fiscal year.
EU States suspend Myanmar’s debt payments
Six EU member states have suspended debt payments from Myanmar worth US$100million for this year, in a bid to help the country focus on economic recovery from COVID-19.
On Wednesday, the ambassadors of the EU, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Finland and Poland announced that they have agreed to defer US$98 million (134.5 billion kyats) in debt payments from Myanmar due between May and December 2020.
The World Bank recently said Myanmar’s economic growth could drop from 6.8 percent to 0.5 percent this fiscal year.
Four investments approved in Ayeyarwaddy Region
On Tuesday, the Ayeyarwady Regional Investment Committee approved 8 billion kyats (US$5.9 million) in investments from three local investors and US$4.8 million in investments from a company in China.
According to the Directorate of Investment and Company Administration (DICA), the three local investments are focused on producing and exporting rice products as well as garment manufacturing.
The Chinese investment is focused on producing and exporting of wood pellets.
DICA said that the four investments would create job opportunities for 3,096 people.
Government approves 14.6 billion kyats in loans for 307 companies
On Wednesday, Myanmar’s working committee on the economic impact of COVID-19 announced the approval of 14.6 billion kyats (US$10.6 million) in loans for 307 enterprises that have suffered financial losses due to the pandemic.
The committee also warned that companies that have been prosecuted by a bank for defaulting on loans are not eligible for loans from the country’s COVID-19 funds.
In March, Myanmar created a 100-billon-kyat (US$73.1 million) COVID-19 fund to assist garment manufacturing and tourism businesses, as well as small and medium-sized enterprises.
The government has also created a fund to supply 100 billion kyats in loans for the agriculture and livestock sector, according to U Aung Naing Oo, permanent secretary of the Ministry of Investment and Foreign Economic Relations (MIFER).
So far, the government has allocated a total of 86 billion kyats (US$62.9 million) in loans to businesses from its COVID-19 fund.
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