The Irrawaddy

Rangoon Regional Minister Reveals Ambassador’s Role in Bus Purchases from China

Passengers crowd to get on YBS Bus 61 in Rangoon. (Photo: Chan Son / The Irrawaddy)

RANGOON – In Friday’s divisional parliament session, Rangoon’s regional minister of planning and finance U Myint Thaung told the legislature that the Yangon Public Bus Company had purchased 1,000 new buses from China at a total cost of US$56 million.

The purchase was made with the help of the Chinese ambassador, from Chinese automotive companies Yutong and Ankai, he said, providing the information in response to a question posed by lawmaker Daw Sandar Min about the new vehicles.

The divisional government has requested 70 billion kyats in the 2016-2017 fiscal year’s re-budgeting process, mentioning to the regional parliament a large sum to be spent on public transportation services in the commercial capital.

Lawmakers have complained that they lack details of the divisional government’s plans to invest the money. Some of the confusion among lawmakers stems from the practice of importing second-hand buses from border areas, and then installing GPS devices on them so that they can be used for city routes.

Daw Sandar Min asked minister U Myint Thaung whether the government would replace the old model vehicles that have been operating for decades with new buses.

While not mentioning a removal of older buses, U Myint Thaung highlighted how, with the assistance of the Chinese ambassador, the regional government signed off on MOUs with Anhui Province-based Ankai and Yutong automotive companies last month.

“The ambassador guarantees the quality of products and the price of vehicles are reasonable,” he said.

Yangon Region Transport Authority secretary Dr. Maung Aung told The Irrawaddy that they would do away with outdated city buses and reinforce the Yangon Bus System YBS with brand new vehicles, scheduled to arrive in Rangoon from China at the end of May.

About 3,700 city buses—most of them outdated—are tasked with carrying 2.5 million commuters in Rangoon daily. Dr. Maung Aung estimates that that city needs at least 4,500 city buses to meet its transportation needs.

Some businesspeople criticized the large purchase of buses from China, saying that the amount would have been better spent on vehicles from Japan.

Myanmar Motor Vehicle Producers and Distributor Association’s chairman Dr. Soe Tun said that is difficult to judge whether the prices quoted to the government were reasonable without knowing the specifications of the buses.