The Irrawaddy Business Roundup (Nov. 22, 2014)
By William Boot 22 November 2014
Central Burma Will Be ‘Revitalized’ by Chinese Economic Corridor
Beijing has renewed its enthusiasm for an economic corridor linking India, Bangladesh and Burma with southwest China.
It would “spark a major expansion in infrastructure development which will revitalize the economies involved,” the official China Daily newspaper reported.
“Linking India’s northeast, Bangladesh, [Burma] and the Chinese province of Yunnan, the corridor will lead to major socioeconomic development and will provide a massive boost to trade in South Asia,” the daily said.
The corridor idea was discussed in private talks with President Thein Sein during Chinese Premier Li Keqiang’s visit to Naypyidaw for the Asean Summit last week.
“China is willing to work with [Burma] in building the corridor to promote connectivity and regional prosperity,” Li was quoted by China Daily as saying.
The “corridor” is envisaged to extend from Kunming, capital of China’s Yunnan province, to Kolkata in India, and would include Mandalay in central Burma as well as Dhaka and Chittagong in Bangladesh.
However, India remains wary of opening up its hinterland to Chinese influence.
Shanghai Institute for International Studies analyst Wang Weihua said China should first focus on cooperation with Burma and Bangladesh.
“Given India’s unclear attitude on whether or not they will allow Chinese investment in the northeast, what we could do now is to concentrate on transport links to improve connectivity with [Burma] and Bangladesh,” Wang told China Daily.
French Cement Giant Expands in Burma but Still No Production
One of the world’s biggest construction materials manufacturers, Lafarge of France, has opened a storage and repacking factory in the Thilawa special economic zone (SEZ).
The facility is a joint venture with two local firms, Aung Myin Thu and My Associates, Myanmar Business Network said.
Lafarge at present still imports cement and about 20,000 tons can be stored at the factory before repacking and distribution within Burma, but there are plans to expand into local production to meet a construction boom, Aung Myin Thu said.
The Paris-based firm has been trading in Burma since 1999 through local subsidiary Thilawa Cement and Building Materials Company.
“We mainly import cement in bulk from Lafarge plants in the region and process the product at our Thilawa terminal. The cement is discharged, stored, and packed in Thilawa and finally distributed through our Lafarge truck fleet,” the company said on its website.
Another Two Years Before Bagan Can Achieve World Heritage Status
Burma’s biggest foreign tourism attraction, Bagan, must wait more than two years before it can qualify for a UN World Heritage listing.
Plans for protecting and maintaining the ancient city’s remains, which include thousands of pagoda artefacts, and drawing up a full inventory of monuments, must be prepared first, Burma’s Ministry of Culture said.
The requirements were made known when inspectors from the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (Unesco) met Naypyidaw government officials, the Myanmar Times reported.
Preparations for World Heritage status will be helped by archaeological specialists from Japan and Italy, the paper said, quoting the ministry.
There are about 1,000 World Heritage listings worldwide, and some qualify for funding to help maintain them.
Tourism has become a major industry in the last two years and the number of foreigners visiting Bagan is expected to rise dramatically as the government plans for 5 million tourists arriving in Burma per year by the end of 2015.
Preparations for a World Heritage site listing will take about two-and-a-half years, the deputy director general of the Department of Archaeology, Thein Lwin, told the Times.
Boeing Signs Supply Agreement With Another Burmese Airline
Air Mandalay is to buy or lease Boeing 737 aircraft to expand its passenger capacity.
“Boeing will assist Air Mandalay with its efforts to procure Next-Generation 737 planes through leasing channels to support Air Mandalay’s expansion plan,” regional travel magazine TTR Weekly said.
At present the airline, which flies mostly within Burma, uses ATR 72-212 and ATR 42-320 planes.
“[Burma] is looking to position itself as a major tourism destination capable of handling an increasing number of foreign visitors. The 737s will provide us with capabilities to support this critical national growth strategy,” chief executive Adam Htoon said in a statement.
Earlier this year Myanma Airways signed an agreement with General Electric Capital Aviation Services to lease 10 Boeing 737s. The first of these aircraft is due to be delivered in June next year, and the last one by 2020.
Cross-Border Trade With China at Muse on Upward Spiral
The value of trade across Burma’s border crossing with China at Muse between April and mid-November this financial year totalled US$2.9 billion, a report said.
The bulk of the trade value, $2 billion, was Burmese goods going to China, the Directorate of Commerce and Consumers’ Affairs was quoted by Eleven Media as saying.
The total value is more than $650 million higher than for the same period of the 2013-14 financial year.
Burma’s exports are mostly agricultural, ranging from rice to rubber, while imports from China include motorcycles, fertilizers and construction materials.
A jade and jewelry market is being built at Muse in cooperation with the Chinese town of Ruili opposite and is due to open in 2015 as part of an economic zone that will include hotels, offices, market areas and the region’s biggest bus station, China’s Xinhua news agency said.