The Irrawaddy Business Roundup (July 22)

By The Irrawaddy 22 July 2017

Myeik Islands to Offer More Hotel Rooms

Nine local and foreign companies with permission to build hotel accommodation on twelve islands of the Myeik Archipelago will be in a position to offer rooms to visitors in the coming high season, the Global New Light of Myanmar reported.

The archipelago has more than 800 islands and is an area of world-class outstanding natural beauty that was little visited during the decades when Myanmar was under military rule.

The permissions were granted by the Myanmar Investment Commission (MIC). Businesses setting up in the region need permission from the MIC and also from relevant ministries, according to U Hsan Myint, deputy director-general of the MIC.

The new hotels will be ready before the coming high season on Nyaung Oo Phee Island, Wa Ale Island, Hlainggu Island, Ngakhinnyogyi Island, 115 Island, Phoni Island, Balar Island and Thahtay Island, according to U Hlwan Moe of the Kawthaung District Directorate of Hotels and Tourism.

A total of some 200 rooms will be available, he said.

Plans for Myeik Archipelago are being developed in collaboration with the Tanintharyi Region Development Committee and include a provision that “only one kind of business” will be allowed on each island, to protect the natural environment, said U Ohn Myint, deputy director-general of the Ministry of Hotels and Tourism.

The majority of visitors to the region are currently from Thailand, according to U Hlwan Moe. Of 300,000 foreigners who visited the region last year, 250,000 were from Thailand, he told the paper.

Logistics Firm Opens Base in Thilawa

Japanese firm Yusen Logistics has opened a 68,000 square-foot logistics center in the Thilawa Special Economic Zone with an eye to contribute to cross-border trade between Myanmar and Thailand.

The base features temperature-controlled storage areas and an assembled vehicle storage yard, and it offers pre-delivery inspections and customs procedures, according to the American Shipper website.

“This logistics center will be a cornerstone of our logistics business in Myanmar and an important part of our global network, including the connection to surrounding countries,” said Kenji Mizushima, president of Yusen Logistics.

Yusen Logistics operates around the globe with services in air, sea and land transportation networks.

The announcement follows the opening of another logistics facility at the Thilawa SEZ in June by Nittsu Logistics Myanmar.

Micro-lenders to Receive Cash Boost

A Luxembourg-based provider of financial services to social businesses will extend loans to three microfinance operations in Myanmar, a trade website reported.

The Grameen Credit Agricole Microfinance Foundation (GCAMF) will provide loans on a phased basis over three years to Proximity Finance (US$2.9 million), BRAC Myanmar ($1.6 million) and VisionFund Myanmar ($1.3 million).

Proximity Finance is a microfinance program of Proximity Designs, a nonprofit that works to reduce poverty. As of December 2015, Proximity Finance reported a total of approximately 48,000 rural customers and a loan portfolio of $8.4 million, according to the report.

BRAC Myanmar is an affiliate of Bangladesh-based Building Resources Across Communities (BRAC), while VisionFund Myanmar is a unit of the US-based non-governmental organization World Vision, with operations reportedly in almost 100 countries.

GCAMF was founded in Luxembourg in 2008 by Credit Agricole SA, a French retail bank, and Grameen Trust, a nonprofit microfinance organization affiliated with the Grameen Bank of Bangladesh. The fund is active in countries in Africa, Asia and Europe.

Myanmar Rice to Help Ease Shortage in Sri Lanka

A shortage of rice in Sri Lanka due to drought followed by floods will be eased by a deal to import rice from Myanmar and Pakistan, according to a news report.

A total of 55,000 MT of rice will be made quickly available to Sri Lanka after a government team visited Myanmar and Pakistan earlier this month.

“After the successful tour, it is clear there will be no more rice shortages in the domestic markets—or even any likelihood of it,” Sri Lanka’s industry and commerce minister Rishad Bathiudeen said. The minister added that “some elements” were trying to create an artificial shortage in the Sri Lankan market, according to the report.

Myanmar was ready to supply 30,000 MT immediately and Pakistan had agreed to provide 25,000 MT without delay, the report stated. The rice samples tested in Pakistan were already milled and in good quality. Myanmar rice was of good quality also but needed to be milled before shipping, the report added.

Sri Lanka has also entered deals to secure rice from Thailand and India, according to another report, but some imports from Thailand might be held back because of higher prices quoted there.

A severe drought followed by floods has slashed agricultural production in Sri Lanka this year, leaving some 900,000 people facing food insecurity, the United Nations said in June.

Production of rice, the country’s staple food, was forecast to drop almost 40 percent to 2.7 million tons in 2017, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and World Food Programme (WFP) said, according to Reuters. Outputs of other crops such as pulses, chilies and onions, were also expected to be hit.

KBZ Expands Capacity on Satellites

The KBZ group of companies has expanded its capacity on two satellites, the AsiaSat 4 and AsiaSat 7, to meet growing demand from clients in its banking, finance and oil and gas sectors for faster and more efficient broadband services, AsiaSat reported.

The Myanmar conglomerate and bank launched services on AsiaSat in 2016, and has since expanded its high-speed broadband network which connects 300 remote sites across its bank branch network and ATM services, and also serves communications for remote oil and gas exploration sites.

With the expanded capacity, KBZ will be offering advanced broadband services, enabling it to expand into the hospitality sector, according to AsiaSat.

It added that the new AsiaSat 9 is being planned and will enable further improved services by KBZ for broadband services across the country.

Japan Invests in Myanmar Human Resources

Employees of telecoms operator Myanmar Posts & Telecommunications (MPT) will start long-term skills training with the Japanese firm KDDI, which, along with Sumitumo, is a partner with MPT.

Initially, four MPT employees (two working in business management and two in a technical field) will join KDDI for one year starting this month.

The training will include three months of Japanese language study and basic lectures, and technical trainees will undergo practical training in network design and development, maintenance and operations, and information systems.

Business management trainees will study in the sales, marketing and new services planning departments. After completing the program, the trainees will return to Myanmar and use the techniques, know-how, and business skills acquired in Japan.

In a separate human resources initiative, the Tokyo-based Japan Productivity Center and the Union of Myanmar Federation of Chambers of Commerce and Industry (UMFCCI) have launched a project to establish a National Productivity Organization to promote enhanced productivity in Myanmar.

The project will seek to introduce Japanese practical Kaizen methods (these translate roughly into a philosophy of constant, continual improvement) into Myanmar businesses.

Senior project staff are currently being sought and more information is available on the UMFCCI website.