Rangoon Chief Minister Attempts to Defuse Electricity Concerns         

By San Yamin Aung 31 May 2016

RANGOON — Rangoon Chief Minister Phyo Min Thein said on Tuesday that Burma’s commercial capital will continue to face blackouts in the coming months as attempts are made to address the city’s weak power cables and growing electricity demands.

“We need to think about the long-term, sustainable reconstruction of underground cables that were weak in the past due to the government’s limited budget and lack of a master plan,” Phyo Min Thein said at a press conference at the Yangon Electricity Supply Corporation.

He added that blackouts throughout Rangoon in recent days have been due to a combination of scorching temperatures and heavy rain, which have damaged power cables.

“We need to repair these cables, which will take some time. During this period, we could experience some additional blackouts,” Phyo Min Thein explained, saying that advanced warning of power outages will be given to the public through media.

“We’ll make an announcement, but these blackouts will be because of maintenance and repair of underground cables and cable towers [and not due to an insufficient electricity supply].”

Burma’s former capital uses more than half of the country’s total electricity consumption, some 1,150 megawatts, a demand the chief minister said is difficult to meet.

“This demand is likely to increase in Rangoon, as over 200 high-rise buildings, some 500 hotels and many other new projects are being constructed. It will continue to be a struggle to distribute a sufficient supply of electricity in the coming months,” Phyo Min Thein said.

The newly sworn-in National League for Democracy (NLD)-led government has been criticized for the frequent power outages across the country. Lower House Speaker Win Myint also stressed during a parliamentary session on Tuesday that the Ministry of Electric Power and Energy solve the problem. Even local newspapers have chimed in, with cartoons mocking Rangoon’s electricity situation as worse now than it was under the previous government.

“The new government is attempting to find a way to begin addressing [this problem] within 60 days,” Phyo Min Thein told reporters at the press conference.

He said that Rangoon’s regional government is discussing with companies and international organizations how to meet electricity demands, a goal they hope to achieve by next year.

“Currently, we need to get an additional 400 megawatts [for Rangoon]. One challenge will be the cost. It costs at least 130 kyats (US$0.11) per unit [to purchase the gas]. At present, we’re only collecting 35 kyats ($0.03) per unit for under 100 units from consumers. We’ll have to further discuss this price,” Phyo Min Thein said.