- Govt Unveils Detailed Economic Policies
- The Irrawaddy Business Roundup (October 21)
- Dateline Irrawaddy: ‘Journalists Have an Important Role to Play’
Posted: 22 Oct 2016 01:54 AM PDT
NAYPYIDAW — Long-awaited detailed economic policies were announced by the government in Naypyidaw today with State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi pledging a secure business environment for both local and foreign investors.
"I would like to invite all business people to work with us," the state counselor said. "That is why we host this meeting."
"I agree that economic development during the last six months has been slow, we now invite investors and promise it is secure to work here in Burma," she said.
The meeting, co-hosted by the Minister of National Planning and Finance U Kyaw Win, came two months after broad economic policies were released.
Daw Aung San Suu Kyi said that the government will develop a skilled work force in the country to promote economic development. She added that law enforcement will also play a key role in the development of Burma.
"We will focus on anti-corruption in the country. If business leaders come across corruption cases, they should complaint to the State Counselor's Office and we will investigate," she said.
With these new investment policies, the government will focus on strategies to use Burma's assets in the right way and at the the right time, said minister U Kyaw Win in the meeting.
"We would like to invite responsible investors to come here and promise that we can support them effectively in time," he said.
He said that the government "will never grab private businesses unfairly."
U Kyaw Win added that the government will promote investment in agriculture, small and medium sized enterprises, banking, health care and infrastructure projects.
He detailed promotion plans for each sector in the meeting such as to focus on technology in the agricultural sector, new payment cards to be issued in banks, inviting the local business community to invest in health care, and new infrastructure projects.
The minister added that with the newly enacted Myanmar Investment Law he believes economic growth could increase by two or three times.
"I believe the current slow economy will speed up within the next six months," he said.
Both Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and U Kyaw Win admitted that economic growth in Burma for the first six months of their government had been slow.
They encouraged business people to pay their taxes to help development speed up.
"Business people should be leaders in paying tax, that's why we have 158 top tax payers attending this meeting," Daw Aung San Suu Kyi said.
Daw Aung San Suu Kyi said she will chair a committee to manage local and foreign investment in Burma as many international organizations are eyeing up investment in the country. She said "a detailed plan will follow."
In the meeting chairman of Myanmar Bankers Association U Khin Maung Aye welcomed the promise of a secure business environment in Burma.
He said that the government must focus on trade policies, fiscal and monetary policies, investment policies and rural development and poverty reduction policies.
"These sectors are related to each other and should be tackled as soon as possible," he said.
As the country is facing a higher inflation rate that could impact economic growth, the governor of the Central Bank of Myanmar U Kyaw Kyaw Maung said the bank is now selling treasury bonds and bills to public and private sector to reduce the inflation rate.
The meeting was attended by ambassadors from Rangoon-based embassies, members of the Union of Myanmar Federation of Chambers and Commerce Industry (UMFCCI), leading business people and government officials.
Those presenting at the meeting included the governor of the Central Bank of Myanmar U Kyaw Kyaw Maung, Singapore's ambassador to Burma Robert Chu, president of the UMFCCI U Win Aung, Chairman of CB Bank U Khin Maung Aye, Ma Nang Lai Kham of the KBZ group of companies, Nick Cumpston of the Australian Embassy, and Nobuyasu Akagi of Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corporation.
Posted: 21 Oct 2016 08:41 PM PDT
Singapore's SMI sells Burma telecom tower business
Singapore Myanmar Investco (SMI) is selling its telecoms business for about US$12.7 million to Hong Kong's Shining Star Holdings, which is involved in real estate, tourism, healthcare and education in China and Burma.
"With Myanmar set to benefit further from favorable trends such as tourism, foreign investments and urbanization, the proposed divestment of our telecom tower business will result in a greater concentration of our efforts behind our highest-potential growth opportunities in Myanmar," Mark Bedingham, president and chief executive officer of SMI told dealstreetasia.com.
SMI has partnered with Royal Golden Sky Ltd to operate retail stores at Rangoon's International Airport and it is investigating retail opportunities at a $300-million Junction City mixed-used development in Rangoon by the Shwe Taung Group.
Burma and India sign MoUs
According to the Global New Light of Myanmar, three agreements were signed between Burma and India during State Counselor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi's visit this week to the neighboring country, following President U Htin Kyaw's visit in August.
The agreements were in the power, banking and insurance sectors, Indian external affairs ministry spokesman Vikas Swarup told the newspaper. They were signed on Wednesday following delegation-level talks headed by the State Counselor and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
One memorandum of understanding (MoU) was signed on cooperation in the power sector, another between the Reserve Bank of India and the Central Bank of Myanmar on banking supervision, and a third on designing an academic and professional building program for Burma's insurance industry, according to the report.
Massive Jade Stone Hard to Move
The massive 174-ton piece of jade unearthed recently in Kachin State will not be moved quickly due to lack of adequate equipment and accessibility by road, according to a lawmaker in the area quoted by AFP.
The 5.8-meter- (19-feet)-long stone was found buried 60 meters deep in a mountain in Hpakant Township in mid-October.
''When the edge of the stone was scratched we could see the quality of the jade inside—it is very good,'' the lawmaker U Tint Soe, 56, posted on his Facebook page.
But the value of the rock might be closer to US$5.4 million, he added, rather than some earlier estimates which put it at $170 million.
Global Witness valued the annual jade trade in Burma at $31 billion in 2014—equivalent to around half the country's GDP.
Jade mining comes at a high human cost as accidents are common. Around 100 people died in a major landslide in November last year.
KBZ Bank introduces credit cards
Kanbawza Bank (KBZ) has followed other Burma banks with the introduction of local forms of credit cards on Oct. 18, in partnership with UnionPay International (UPI).
The cards will allow holders to purchase products and services from certain points of sale, make payments and withdraw cash, KBZ said.
Under the offering, one type of card can be applied for by those earning a monthly salary of 300,000 kyats and above. Those earning more than 2 million kyats per month can apply for a "platinum" card. Users will be exempt from paying interest for a certain period and will subsequently pay interest at a rate of 13 percent.
Ayarwaddy (AYA) Bank introduced local credit cards in July and Asian Green Development Bank (AGD), the Cooperatives Bank (CB), Myanmar Oriental Bank (MOB) and Ayeyarwady Bank (AYA) also offer co-branded MPU-UPI cards.
Jade mining tax rates under negotiation
Jade mining companies are in negotiations with the government to cut in half the taxes they already pay, according to a report in the Global New Light of Myanmar.
Mining companies must pay taxes on the basis of the value of extracted jade stones, according to the report.
Firms are seeking a reduction of up to one-half the proposed rate, according to U Myint Pe of the Yadana Thein Gay Har company from the Kani area in Sagaing Division.
The state body, the Myanmar Gems Enterprise, has been tasked with responsibility for overseeing mining sector operations, including taxation, measuring mining blocks, setting the terms for mining permits and reporting the number and type of heavy machinery used, the report said.
A mining block is equivalent to one acre. Previously, companies could bid for up to 50 blocks, and the price for a block with a floor price of 1 million kyats could rise by up to 50 times that value, according to U Myint Pe.
The new government has decided that permits will be given to three different sizes of enterprise—heavy, mid-sized and small. This year, the bidding process may change to allow more small-sized firms to participate, he told the newspaper.
Posted: 21 Oct 2016 08:27 PM PDT
Ye Ni: Welcome to Dateline Irrawaddy. This week, we'll discuss the Maungdaw attacks, the resultant military operations, the news released by the government and media coverage. Member of Myanmar Press Council U Myint Kyaw and documentary producer Daw Mon Mon Myat will join me for the discussion. I'm Irrawaddy Burmese editor Ye Ni.
As you know, police border posts in Maungdaw in northern Arakan State came under attack on Oct. 9. The Burma military then carried out security operations in response to the armed violence and both sides have suffered casualties. Initially there were four casualties from the Burmese military but more recently the number has risen to 13, while at least 26 suspected attackers have been killed, including two women according to the latest report [on Monday]. The incident has grabbed headlines in both local and international media. But when it comes to coverage of the developing situation, local and foreign news outlets present the story from their respective points of interest. Local media tend to focus on nationalism while foreign media highlight alleged human rights abuses. Ko Myint Kyaw, are you satisfied with the new government's news releases and the ability of the media to cover the incident?
Myint Kyaw: The news released by the new government is adequate to a certain extent. When the identity of the attackers was not yet clearly known, the government asked [the people] to wait until Oct. 15 for more information. Then, the authorities investigated the arrested suspects and gave a comprehensive news release on the details and suspected cause of the attacks. What we need, however, is [coverage] by independent media. The government needs to arrange for local private media or foreign media outlets to cover incidents as much as possible. Only a few local journalists—possibly five or six—have been on the ground in recent days. Coincidentally, some journalists from Rangoon were in the area for other reasons when the incident took place. But the more media outlets can report on the ground, the better.
While their coverage may be restricted by their budget or time or other factors, the government should cater to journalists' requests and take them to locations when safe to do so. I understand that the government may not be able to take them to the front line of the operations. It would be best if the government provided a security plan, if it can, for journalists to go to safe places in the area and collect information. In the Ducheertan case [of racial violence in Arakan State in 2014], no matter how many statements the government released, only coverage by independent media was trusted both locally and internationally. This is an important point and the government should give greater attention to it.
YN: Soon after the attacks took place, there were reports or rumors of the attacks on social media while local and foreign journalists still could not access the area. That reminded me of coverage of Arakan State between 2012 and 2014 when we also saw lots of rumors and unconfirmed news of racial violence shared on social media. The difference is that the response of netizens to these recent incidents is not as chaotic as it was at that time. Netizens have responded with greater restraint this time. Ma Mon Myat, you have completed a lot of research on social media coverage, what is your assessment?
Mon Mon Myat: I agree with your view. The digital literacy of people has developed a lot in the four years between 2012 and 2016. It is because more than half of the population now have access to a mobile phone. Consequently, people have a greater grasp of the internet and Facebook, and have begun to gain information from many different sources. As a result, they can now differentiate between right and wrong information to a certain extent, though not completely.
For example, in 2012, after the photo of [rape victim] Ma Thida Htwe went viral on the internet, even the print media made reports based on unconfirmed sources. At that time, the media had less awareness about how their reporting can lead to conflict. As far as I am concerned, there was no training about responsible and sensitive reporting at that time in Burma, which should have been a contributing factor [to how the situation was reported]. At that time, the print media still had a big influence and there were reports based on rumors and online photos. Media also made reports based on groundless news without knowing the background of the region and reasons behind the conflict. As a result, the coverage exasperated how people viewed the situation to the extent that it became sectarian violence in the mind of the people. Comparing the past and 2016, this time the media exercised caution as soon as the attacks took place to avoid affecting religious and racial sensitivities. [Netizens] wait and verify which news is right and which is wrong, and respond depending on it. So, it is fair to say that the [digital] literacy of the people has developed to a certain extent.
YN: You make an interesting point. When we get into conflict areas, it is important to verify the authenticity of information because both sides may propagate that they are right. I think journalists on the ground play an important role here. So, Ko Myint Kyaw, what are your suggestions for journalists reporting on the conflict on the ground with regards to their professional duties and their security?
MK: Media agencies, if they are to send journalists to conflict areas, should send professional journalists. By professional I mean they have knowledge about verifying information as well as other journalistic skills. Some journalists have only been engaged in the field for a few months or a few years and they don't understand the sensitivities at play. Professional journalists should understand which information is sensitive and if a particular piece of information should be included or not in their report. They must also understand that anything that one side says is just their claim and statement, and they have to verify it.
If they personally witness a scene, they should only report that scene, not the reason behind it because each side will claim a different reason. Journalists need to understand that what they say is just their claims and journalists have a responsibility to verify their claims. Again, they should be able to report independently amid other pressures such as racial and religious pressures—journalists who know how to resist those pressures and who do not let such pressures influence them. Such journalists should be dispatched.
Unprofessional journalists will find it difficult to produce news stories that can explain the situation to the public well. If journalists are not professional enough, lobbying or advocacy of one side may be included in their reporting. Sometimes if they don't mention that it is just a statement, the readers might interpret it claims as reality. Some experienced readers understand that it is statement, but most of them don't. Therefore, journalists have an important role to play. If a journalist fails to verify information and his reporting is unintentionally biased toward a side, it can inflame a situation. They have to take extra caution. While they should be professional, they should also understand the sensitivity of the situation.
On the other hand, if they don't write anything, people will not be informed about the problems, and the government will not feel pressured to take accountability. The government must always take accountability because in some cases, it might [unintentionally] use force or power excessively. The media also has a role to play to reveal [perpetrators of] the violence. Of course, the government is mainly responsible for this but the media also have to take responsibility. Therefore, we need to dispatch experienced, professional journalists who understand all these things. They should not just be satisfied with taking photos and reporting the incidents, but they need to work to understand the situation.
YN: What are your suggestions for sending female journalists to conflict zone?
MMM: Female journalists may find it easier to interview local civilians, women and children in covering situations. While male journalists tend to focus on military matters, women journalists are more likely to focus on humanity and their reports may represent the voices of women and children. For example, in a recent news report by AFP, it not only quoted the government-provided information, but also quoted the voices of civilians. We need such news stories.
YN: Ko Myint Kyaw, Ma Mon Mon Myat, thank you for your contributions.
The post Dateline Irrawaddy: 'Journalists Have an Important Role to Play' appeared first on The Irrawaddy.
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