Correcting misconceptions that may arise from The Irrawaddy article about UNICEF

By The Irrawaddy 21 May 2014

Dear Sir/Madam,

I am writing to address misconceptions that your readers may have following an Irrawaddy article on 19 May 2014, where it is incorrectly implied that UNICEF has not been cautious or wise in its choice of office space in Yangon.

For many years UNICEF, along with other UN agencies, was housed in Traders Hotel. However in early 2013 we were advised by the Myanmar Ministry of Tourism, that we must vacate those premises by mid 2013. The move coincided with the need for UNICEF to identify a larger space, as reforms in the country

and subsequent requests for additional support from UNICEF for Myanmar’s children meant our programme was growing.

Unfortunately, the instruction to vacate Traders also coincided with a dramatic rise in property values and rents – something to which anyone familiar with the situation in Yangon can attest.

We spent 6 months looking for a suitable, affordable space, and investigated more than 25 properties in Kyauktada, Kamanyut, Yankin, Hlaing, Mayangone and Bahan townships. Ultimately we chose a property in Bahan township that was both suitable and was offered to us at a very competitive rate.

As noted in the article, market conditions for office accommodation are extremely difficult in Yangon and rents are extremely high. We believe that the rent we have negotiated is well under market rates. It is more than we want to pay, but a good deal none-the-less and the best we were able to find.

Under the framework of our Basic Cooperation Agreement with the Government signed in November 2012, UNICEF has been in regular contact with the Government seeking options for suitable space and favourable rental conditions for its expert staff in Myanmar. We will continue to explore such possibilities, without allowing them to distract from the important and – in some cases – lifesaving work for disadvantaged children that is the sole reason we are in the country.

Bertrand Bainvel

UNICEF Representative to Myanmar