Government Plans Monthly Meetings to Respond to Business Leaders
By Kyaw Hsu Mon 5 December 2016
RANGOON — Government leaders are planning to meet monthly with the local business community to listen to current problems and find solutions, Vice President U Myint Swe and National Planning and Finance Minister U Kyaw Win pledged last week.
The first monthly meeting received a positive response. The vice president and finance minister met with local business people on Dec. 1 in Rangoon at the head office of the Union of Myanmar Federation of Chambers of Commerce and Industry (UMFCCI).
“Business people from all sectors attended this meeting. Government leaders listened to them describe what is happening in the markets and how they can help. It was a short first meeting, but the business leaders pointed out some recent problems,” said Dr. Maung Maung Lay, vice president of the UMFCCI.
The first meeting came at a challenging economic time. The current National League for Democracy (NLD) government has been criticized for the sluggish growth of the country’s economy. Many development problems remain to be solved.
About 70 sister associations of the UMFCCI attended the Dec. 1 meeting, and the most urgent problem they raised to government officials had to do with the rising currency exchange rate and related trade imbalance.
“The Central Bank’s deputy governor, U Sett Aung, joined us at the meeting. He asked us about what is happening in the market, but he didn’t address the solutions,” said Dr. Maung Maung Lay.
On Monday, the Central Bank’s US dollar reference rate reached 1,305 kyats, while the black market rate reached 1,350 kyats. The declining value of the kyat has been a major issue for importers, and they are demanding that the government address it.
“The government said they would try to solve these problems as much as and as soon as possible. If necessary, they will meet with us twice a month,” said Dr. Maung Maung Lay.
Since the NLD government took power in April, observers have been waiting for the country’s economy to develop faster. But reality has not yet lived up to those expectations.
The opposition Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) has also urged the current government to set a clear economic policy that will help to solve the social and economic problems that ordinary people are facing. Last month, USDP chairman U Than Htay argued that there has been a significant increase in crime recently due to economic hardship.
U Win Myint, chairman of the Fuel Importers Association, attended the forum. He suggested that the NLD government should take more time to listen to business leaders.
“I welcome their plan to hold meetings with us. But with only three minutes for each business sector, that’s too little. In the meeting, some people could explain their problems, but others didn’t get a chance. That’s why we need more time,” said U Win Myint.
He added that importers like him are facing a critical currency exchange problem.
“We don’t want the government to control the markets. But we do want the government to intervene in these recent problems,” said U Win Myint. “For example, the Central Bank should not try to restrict the exchange rate, but it should try to lead the market to a better solution.”
Now may be a happy period for Burmese product exporters. But importers point out that export levels in Burma are significantly less than imports, and this causes a big trade deficit.
“If the government would listen more, then they will know what is really happening,” said U Win Myint.
U Myo Min Aung, vice chairman of the Myanmar Retailers Association, said that although the government pledged to meet with business people on a regular basis, he wanted to see it take more action.
“Minister U Kyaw Win promised us the government would create an easy process for us,” he said. “If necessary, it would be a one-stop service. They should make that idea the reality.”