Presidential maneuvering - Myanmar’s Lower House Speaker Shwe Mann says that he is interested to succeed President Thein Sein in 2015. Now, it looks possible that either Shwe Mann or opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi will be Myanmar’s next president, after she restated that she too will be seeking the position. Myanmar’s president is elected by Parliament and most likely will come from whichever party wins the next national elections scheduled for 2015. The situation has been further complicated by current President Thein Sein not ruling out that he will also run. The USDP won a landslide in Myanmar’s 2010 elections, but will start second favourite to Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) in 2015. At present Suu Kyi cannot become president as her two sons are British citizens but the NLD is pushing to change the country’s Constitution to allow her to become president. Suu Kyi has said that she wants the Constitution changed not only to enable her to be president, but also to do away with the military’s guaranteed 25 percent allocation of seats in the Parliament, seen by many as an impediment to the transition of Myanmar from army rule to a parliamentary democracy. However although an amended Constitution could facilitate Suu Kyi becoming president, a proposed legislative amendment favoured by some of Myanmar’s smaller parties could derail this ambition. Several parties want the country’s voting system changed from the first-past-the-post system at present to one of proportional representation—a change opposed by the NLD. The current system could result in a big win for the NLD in 2015, whereas a proportional system would most probably see some smaller parties win seats and raise the prospect of a coalition government.
Clean sheet from ILO - The International Labour Organization (ILO) has announced that it will lift its remaining restrictions on Myanmar, which the government hopes will boost trade and increase foreign investment in the country. The restrictions, imposed by the UN agency in 2000, had a recommendation that its 185 member states limit relations with Myanmar to avoid allowing forced labour in the country. ILO delegates temporarily suspended this restriction and lifted some others last year, but have voted to totally lift all remaining restrictions during their annual International Labour Conference in Geneva. At the conference it agreed to continue working with the government toward eliminating all forms of forced labour by 2015, and to monitor working conditions as foreign companies rush in to take advantage of the newly opened economy.
UK Trade visit - The United Kingdom’s Trade and Investment Minister Stephen Green has made his first visit to Myanmar and identified four key areas the country needs to improve to get more foreign investments. Whilst he said that the UK recognizes the attractiveness of Myanmar the main hurdles for foreign investments are corruption and a lack of transparency, physical and technological infrastructure restricting free flow of information, weak banking systems and insufficient qualified workers . At least three more UK trade delegations will visit Myanmar before end of this year to enhance bilateral trade cooperation. At present bilateral trade is minimal.
Surprises as two Telecom licences are awarded - Norway’s Telenor and Qatar’s Ooredoo have been awarded two 15-year mobile network licenses in Myanmar, beating off challenges from nine rival bidders. President’s Office spokesman, Ye Htut, posted the announcement on his Facebook page at 5pm Thursday, June 27th. In the run up to the decision Ooredoo had said that it would provide 3G coverage to 90 percent of Myanmar’s population within two years, based on a proposed investment of US$15 billion, while Telenor which works in five other Asian countries and is the world’s 14th biggest mobile company by subscriber numbers, said after the announcement that a full range of mobile services, both voice and data, will be commercially launched as the initial offering, anticipated to happen in 2014.
Successful applicants must fulfill post-selection requirements, meanwhile the Parliament is still in the process of passing a telecommunications law. The announcement also named French-Japanese bidder, the Orange-Marubeni consortium, as the back-up candidate should either of the winners fail to meet their obligations. The news came after a last minute drama in which Myanmar’s Parliament voted on the Wednesday to delay the scheduled June 27 announcement, citing the need to first pass the in-progress telecoms bill. However, the government overruled the legislature’s objections, saying that the announcement would go ahead as scheduled.
Things go better with Coke – No sooner had global icon Coca-Cola opened its first bottling plant in Yangon at the beginning of the month than it announced plans to expand the production lines before the end of the year. Coca-Cola, Myanmar is a joint venture with Pinya Manufacturing Co. Ltd., a leading soft drink and beverage maker in the countryr. Currently the production line is too small to meet anticipated demand so the factory will be expanded. Coca-Cola will invest US$200 million in Myanmar and create more than 20,000 jobs according to a statement from the company at its launch. The expansion is a part of an investment plan for the next five years. The company will start by distributing its Coca-Cola and Sprite brands in Myanmar. The drinks are packed in plastic bottles, glass bottles and aluminum cans, which are labeled in local language.
Unilever returns after 80 years - Unilever is planning to launch its first factory in Myanmar next month, as part of a US$667 million investment program. Unilever’s products include food, beverages, cleaning agents as well as being the world's largest producer of ice cream. The multinational has over one hundred factories throughout the world producing toothpaste, shampoo, food and personal care products. Products such as Knorr chicken powder, Sunsilk shampoo, Clear shampoo, Lux soap, Sunlight soap and Ponds cosmetics are all established brands in Myanmar. The company aims to dominate Myanmar’s consumer goods market which is expected to grow significantly within the next ten years. Many Myanmar workers who were previously employed by Unilever’s factories in Thailand have also been given the opportunity to work in the new factory. With various economic reforms underway, many migrant workers are considering returning to seek opportunities back home in Myanmar. The factory is expecting to provide two thousand jobs in total over the next two years. It is still waiting for approval from the Food and Drug Administration Department but is expected to start operations in August. Unilever will hire around 150 employees to start and plans to create a further 100 staff by the end of the year.
More telecoms – In addition to the two new mobile licences being awarded to Telenor and Ooreedoo, Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei has been selected to work with the State-owned Myanmar Posts and Telecommunications (MPT) together with internet services provider, Yatanarpon to further expand local mobile networks. MPT invited tenders from several mobile companies to expand their telecommunication reach. International companies such as Ericsson, Huawei, Nokia Siemens and ZTE all submitted bids, but Huawai was finally chosen with a promise to invest US$34 million in MPT.
More fuel - Singapore based Hin Leong Group is planning to expand its business and start the distribution and selling of fuel products in Myanmar. Hin Leong Group business is in oil trading, bunkering, lubricants blending, diesel retailing, logistics support and storage support. The group is planning to expand their business in South East Asia including Myanmar. The group is currently one of the top fuel suppliers to Myanmar and is planning to store fuel and expand distribution around Yangon as demand increases as more and more foreign companies enter Myanmar. The group will spend between US$100 million and 200 million to start the business in Myanmar. Although Myanmar has plenty of oil and natural gas, it cannot produce enough fuel to use locally. Myanmar is importing tons of fuel every month to meet domestic demand. Foreign investments in Myanmar hit US$42.5 billion on May 31 this year, according to official figures. Over US$19 billion has been invested in power sector and $14.37 billion in oil and gas.
And PTT too – Thailand’s PTT is ready to invest billions of US dollars in Myanmar to extend its presence from the upstream oil and petroleum business to downstream. Following billions of dollars in investment in the past years by PTT Exploration and Production (PTTEP), the national oil and gas company has started marketing lubricant products in the country. It is also building a normal petrol station on the highway linking Yangon with Naypyitaw. Their next investment could involve a power plant to address huge power demand in the country. A study is also underway for the investment in an oil refinery where smaller refineries could be upgraded into a complex. PTTEP is also ready to join the bidding for more exploration fields with the potential for PTT to invest billions more in the country. Myanmar is part of Thailand’s national energy strategy.
Made in Myanmar - Myanmar's clothing industry is expected to grow as a result of the country's readmission to a preferential European Union trading scheme. The EU readmitted Myanmar to its trade preference scheme on June 12 which grants developing nations preferential access to the 27-nation bloc for several products in the form of lower tariffs. Experts estimate that the clothing industry could employ up to two million people provided the minimum wage remains unchanged. From January to March this year, the country collected over US$300 million in revenue from garment exports, nearly twice the amount from last year, according to figures from Myanmar Garment Manufacturers Association.
Twin Towers - A twin tower, one 34 floors the other 32 floors, will be built at the open air market area near the world-famous Shwedagon Pagoda in Yangon, according to authorities. The project, which will take four years to complete, is a joint venture between Yangon City Development Committee (YCDC) and Shwe Taung Company, a leading local construction firm. The tower, when finished, will become one of the highest buildings in Yangon, but it will not be taller than the Shwedagon Pagoda, which istands at 112 metres high on Singuttara Hill.
Indian involvement - India’s Minister of Commerce, Industry and Textiles, Shri Anand Sharma, met President U Thein Sein in Naypyitaw, to discuss in particular oil and gas, roads and textiles. India will also offer US$ 150 million of credit for establishing a SEZ at Sittwe, capital of Myanmar’s Rakhine State in the North West.
Oil and Gas - Progress of the renovation of the Thanlyin Refinery and the ongoing upgrading of the Thanbayakan Petrochemical Complex was discussed. The renovation of the Thanlyin Refinery was financed by US$ 20 million LoC, signed in 2005-06 while the upgrading of the Thanbayakan Petrochemical Complex is being financed by another US$20 million LoC signed in 2008-09.
Indian companies are very active in the oil and gas field in Myanmar. OVL and GAIL have announced US$ 1.33 billion investment in the China-Myanmar gas pipeline project. Phase I of the 200 km Kyaukphyu-Kunming Oil & Gas pipeline worth US$ 475 million for construction of two parallel pipelines for gas and oil has been awarded to Punj Lloyd. PSC-1 onshore block in Central Myanmar worth US$ 73 million has been awarded to Jubilant Energy India on the basis of a global tender in 2011.
Roads - India is also actively involved in improving road connectivity with Myanmar which will create new opportunities for India’s north eastern region. India has extended considerable assistance for road development projects including improvement of the Tamu-Kalewa-Kalemyo (TKK) road (about 160 kms), the Kaladan Multi-Modal Transit Transport Project which envisages development of road and inland waterways from Sittwe port in Myanmar to Mizoram and some segments of Trilateral Highway Project (about 1360 kms) connecting Moreh (Manipur, India) to Mae Sot (Thailand) through Myanmar. These will prove of great benefit to India’s land locked North East.
Textiles - India has also offered to help in revival of 300 apparel factories in Myanmar. The South India Textile Research Association (SITRA) will provide technical assistance in plans for these factories. India will also cooperate with Myanmar in formulating a common compliance code for standards and best practice in the factories.
Pervasive Premier League - Teashops and bars around Myanmar will be enjoying late nights from August onward as the world’s most popular football team, Manchester United, announced it had signed a deal to broadcast its own private channel next season through Myanmar’s SkyNet. With some 23 million local viewers tuning into a Manchester United game last season, SkyNet is confident Manchester United Television (MUTV) will be popular in football-fanatical Myanmar . This follows the recent visit of Man United legends Andy Cole, Dennis Irwin, Lee Sharpe and Clayton Blackmore. The players teamed up with two Myanmar National League sides in a charity match against Myanmar’s national team. The event was organised by the Ayeyarwady Foundation which donated US$30,000 to health and education causes at a charity dinner afterwards.