Ministry of Planning, Finance and Industry, Ministry of Commerce and Ministry of Investment and Foreign Economic Relations held press briefings yesterday on their performances during the 4th-year of present administration.
Ministry of Planning, Finance and Industry
Deputy Minister for Planning, Finance and Industry U Maung Maung Win briefed on the ministry’s economic policy, planning, finance and industrial policies in both short and long terms through five departments under the planning, 13 departments under finance and 6 departments under Industry.
The Planning Department managed to develop the Myanmar Sustainable Development Plan 2018-2030, which will be the basic framework of national planning, while the Project Bank categorized the projects which need capital investments. The Ministry has also established the PPP Centre to provide public services.
The deputy minister explained that the Project Appraisal and Progress Reporting Department has adopted specific time frame for strategic plans of, the Central Statistical Organization drafted the five-year plan for implementing the National Strategy for Development of Statistics (2018-2019 to 2022-2023), the Central Equipment Statistics and Inspection Department inspected machinery and vehicles being used by the Union ministries, the National Archives Department collected documents from Union ministries, state departments in Yangon Region and Hluttaws of Yangon, Bago, Mon and Kayin.; the new National Records and Archives Act was passed through Pyidaungsu Hluttaw Law No. 40 on 27 December 2019; and conducted the courses of Master of Public Administration and the Master of Business Administration.
In financial sector, the Myanma Economic Bank is giving out low-interest loans after received two step loan from Japan, the first loan of Yen5.033 billion and the second one Yen15 billion, through the Myanma Economic Bank and the 10 private banks. The Myanma Economic Bank is providing 1 per cent and 1 year-term loan to the hotel and tourism sectors, SMEs and the CMP businesses in accordance with the instruction of COVID-19 Economic Relief Plan. Out of K100 billion fund, a total of K31.817 billion loan has been given out to 832 businesses up to 18 June 2020.
The Myanma Agricultural Development Bank borrowed K150,000 per acre for paddy and K100,000 per acre for other crops in 2018-2019 financial year. Out of K200 billion JICA Two Step Loan, the MADB has given on K196.6 billion loans to farmers to purchase agricultural equipment and other agricultural infrastructures
The COVID-19 Special Relief Loan will be K50,000 per acre for 2020 monsoon paddy cultivation with 5 per cent annual interest, and a total of K600 billion for 12 million acres of agricultural lands for 2020.
The Myanmar Insurance worked together with the Myanma Agricultural Development Bank in weather index-based crop insurance in Pyay of Bago Region and Shwebo of Sagaing Region under the one-year pilot project, as well as premium insurances for vehicle owners and driving licenses. The Budget Department managed for allocation of emergency funds at the central organizations, Union ministries and region/state governments in 2019-2020FY, with K50 billion at the Union government, K14 billion at local governments and K36 billion at the Union ministries respectively.
The Treasury Department carried out debt management, financial management and maintaining Union fund, while selling out the Government Treasury Bonds; the Internal Revenue Department developed the Tax Administration Law, introduced tax payment system with the MPU Debit Card in the first phase in 2015 and with Net CCT Function of the Central Bank of Myanmar in 2018, Internet Banking System of CBPay in January 2020, and Internet Banking system of AYA Pay in May 2020.
The Customs Department began transform custom services from manual system to Myanmar Automated Cargo Clearance System in Yangon in 2016, and in June 2018 at Myawady border trade zone, and the installation of MACCS is being carried out at the Muse border trade zone. The transform of E-form D was implemented to join the ASEAN Single Window Live Operation in December 2019, which can support international trade and attract international investments.
The Financial Regulatory Department drafted and implemented the Financial Inclusion Roadmap (2014-2020) and 2019-2030; the department also issued licence to five foreigner owned life insurance companies, three joint-venture life insurance companies and there general insurance companies in 2019; the department has secured approval from the 16th regular session of 2nd Pyidaungsu Hluttaw to get US$60 million loan from the Asian Development Bank to establish the Credit Guarantee Corporation to provide loans for MSMEs and to reduce possible losses of banks. The fully state-owned Loan Insurance Corporation will be established in 2020 and loan insurance programme will commence in 2021.
The Pension Department is working for the Central Provident Fund, the Revenue Appellate Tribunal adopted regulations of Tax Appeal Board Act in 2019; the Securities and Exchange Commission of Myanmar is managing the Yangon Stock Exchange and six companies of securities and exchange companies.
The Directorate of Industrial Collaboration is generating over 1,000 skilled workers from six industrial training schools each year, and working to establish two technical training schools with assistance of India government in Thaton and Monywa townships. The Directorate of Industrial Supervision and Inspection launched a SME Web Portal for the MSME Member Card Online Registration and the e-Payment System online.
The Myanma Pharmaceutical Industrial Enterprise is producing a wide range of medicines, including essential drugs, in line with WHO GMP Guideline.
The No. 1 Heavy Industrial Enterprise issued vehicle policies in May 2019 with the approval of Union government.
The ministry also suspended 2 per cent advance tax on exports, postponement of trade, income tax up to 2019-2020FY for the relief of impacts from COVID-19 and provided relief funds for the other sectors.
Dr Wah Wah Maung, the Director-General of Pension Department, explained the media questions about reform of pension system by establishing funds like in other countries, plans to draft a law to set up funds of civil service employees.
Deputy Minister U Maung Maung Win and officials replied to the questions abut X-ray machines at Yangon port, renewal of contracts for private owned X-ray machines, remarks of Auditor-General Office of the Union on the involvement of departmental officials in the Myanmar Economic Holdings Limited, the situations of heavy industries, Chinese loan, progress on the investigation of steel factory in Myingyan, the estimated budget for 2020 General Eleciton, elimination of old banknotes, the master plan for China-Myanmar Economic Corridor, Chinese investments in Myanmar, implementation of projects proposed to Myanmar for the Belt and Road Initiative projects, K20,000 cash supplies to the grass roots people, settlement of problems at the industries transferred to the private sector, welfares for staff members at these factories and privatization of more factories, reduction of interest to micro finance sector during the COVID-19 crisis.
Ministry of Commerce
Deputy Minister for Commerce U Aung Htoo then explained the fourth-year performance of his ministry. He said they are implementing the Myanmar Sustainable Development Plan (2018-2023).
The Ministry of Commerce said the trade sector had a production value of K21,638 billion in 2018-2019 financial year, contributing to 20.55percent of GDP, and an increase of 7.9percent from last year. International trade reached US$35.02 billion during the fourth year with $16.963 billion in exports and USD18.058 billion in imports while trade deficit was reduced to $1.09 billion.
Myanmar managed to export 2.3 million tonnes of rice and broken rice, a major export item, in the previous year and generate $700 million in income. They estimate to export 2.5 million tonnes this year. COVID-19 has led to requirements in food rations and also opened up new markets. Myanmar won the rice tender for 75,000 tonnes from the Philippines and will hold a government-to-government meeting for selling with Malaysia.
Corn is the second important crop and domestic consumption has increased with exports to markets in China having expanded to those in Thailand as well. Myanmar exported over 1.53 million tonnes of corn last year and also exported 1.64 million tonnes of different types of legumes in 2018-2019 financial year, generation $1 billion in revenue. The Deputy Minister said the export of food has curiously gone up as the nation exported 1.7 million metric ton of watermelons, muskmelons, mangoes and bananas in the fourth year, a 21 per cent increase from 2017-2018 financial year. Myanmar also increased livestock export and developed the saltwater and freshwater fish farming sector, thereby increasing exports. Myanmar exported 500,000 cattle last year and USD700 million worth of fishery products for 2018-2019 financial year. Textile and CMP exports also increased to USD4.85 billion for CMP exports in the fourth year and USD1.34 billion for other industrial finished products exported.
The ministry promoted transit trade and exported USD3.9 billion worth of natural gas through the Kyaukpyu-Kunming pipeline. With the approval of joint ventures with foreign companies for retail and wholesale, 7 retail businesses, 54 wholesale businesses and 23 retail/wholesale businesses have cropped up in the country.
The Deputy Minister explained that they have sent 10 economic counselors 8 nations to increase exports and find new markets and will send 5 more economic counselors to 4 other nations. The ministry has organized domestic trade fairs and participated in international ones. They have also built 13 central trade centres in the states and regions.
The Consumer Protection Law was enacted in 2019 and the ministry approved 9,893 products for meeting set standards. The Agricultural Product Management Body was established to ensure farmers receive fair prices and set the referral price for 100 tins of rice to K500,000. The Union Government has allotted K15 billion for purchasing rice and did so in Yangon, Bago and Ayeyawady regions at the referral price of K500,000.
The Deputy Minister then explained about the Special Economic Zones they were handling. He said they are in the process of setting up a company for constructing a deep sea port in Kyaukpyu SEZ and are discussing the company rules and board of directors selection. He said they are also in the process of signing land leases with the Italian-Thai company for Dawei SEZ.
The Deputy Minister then answered to a question from the media on whether there were plans to suspend trade with Bangladesh as it currently has high infection rates of COVID-19. He said the drop in border trade in Rakhine State to a point lower than usual has been going on for some time. He said Myanmar merchants do not travel to Bangladeshi ports to do trade so there is no cause for becoming infected with the disease.
Afterwards, the Deputy Minister and officials replied to questions on the progress of projects in collaboration with China, the joint border trade zone with China, how they will deal with restrictions of Myanmar products being exported, the rise in price for cargo trucks to transport cargo to the border during COVID-19, plans for the new model of cargo trading after COVID-19, progress on allowing car imports for staff with 26 years of service and those with outstanding staff awards, the initial projects for Kyaukpyu Deep Sea Port, stocking up on rice and cooking oil reserves, transferring state-owned warehouses to private ownership, the number transferred and the current situation with reduced state-owned warehouses, and other topics.
Ministry of Investment and Foreign Economic Relations
Permanent Secretary U Aung Naing Oo of the Ministry of Investment and Foreign Economic Relations explained the ministry’s performances for the fourth year. The ministry enforced the new Myanmar Companies Law on 21 August 2018 and implemented the electronic registration system MyCO across the nation simultaneously. This has made registering companies for efficient and reduced costs.
The result was that 46,337 companies re-registered and 31,175 companies have re-registered by the end of 19 June, making the total number of re-registration of companies registered before the new law was enacted reach 77,552.
The company law had to make processes more streamlined while avoiding complications for companies that have to follow the law. As a result, Myanmar moved to the 70th spot on the World Bank’s Starting a Business ranking for 2020. Myanmar had ranked last at 189th in the same ranking when it was first included by the World Bank in 2014. Since starting from the bottom, the nation has worked up the rankings with noticeable results.
U Aung Naing Oo then explained about the investment sector. He said the Myanmar Investment Commission has approved 189 foreign investment processes as of 23 June. The total investment value from those processes is at US$4,307 million and MIC has currently approve of $4.3 billion. Meanwhile, Myanmar citizens have made 87 investments, with K1.37 trillion approved by MIC, within a year as of 23 June 2020.
U Aung Naing Oo then explained the performance of the Foreign Economic Relations Department. The department is tasked with handling cooperation with United Nations institutions, including UNDP, UNICEF, UNFPA, FAO, and WFP. The department has 5-year plans for cooperation between Myanmar and the UN from 2018 to 2022 that are estimated at USD822 million in total.
The Permanent Secretary then spoke of significant events in bilateral cooperation. He said they have signed a 5-year MoU with China on business and trade and signed another agreement for 1 billion Yuan in assistance from China in April 2019. A total of 33 MoUs on bilateral cooperation were signed when the President of China visited Myanmar back in January. Similarly, during the President of Myanmar’s trip to China, there were agreements for 4 billion Yuan in assistance to Myanmar during the previous 3 years. During the visit from the President of the Republic of Korea, they signed a framework agreement for South Korea to loan $1 billion to Myanmar. The government of Japan has also assisted in many sectors in Myanmar. In fact, the Japanese Ambassador and the Deputy Minister for Investment and Foreign Economic Relations recently signed an MoU for assisting Myanmar with COVID-19. The EU has also provided valuable support to Myanmar including the financial assistance of EURO 221 million to develop the education sector, handed over after the signing ceremony on 21 March 2019.
The ministry closely cooperates with ASEAN’s economic pillar as well. Thailand assumed the role of ASEAN Chair last year where all ASEAN member nations agreed on the 171 tasks for implementation. Myanmar is included in implementing 167 tasks and has completed 130 tasks so far. Of the remaining 37 tasks, 35 are to be done in collaboration with the entire ASEAN region meaning Myanmar only has 2 tasks to complete on its own.
Myanmar is actively participating in tasks concerning the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) between ASEAN and its partner nations. RCEP will become the largest free trade area in the world and includes 47.4 per cent of the world’s population, 32.3 per cent of global GDP, and 29.1 per cent of all global trade. It will potentially include 32.5 per cent of global investments as well. Permanent Secretary U Aung Naing Oo said his ministry has the main responsibility in the working committee for remedying economic repercussions from COVID-19, as assigned by the President’s Office. He said Union Minister U Thaung Tun serves as Chairman of that working committee and they instruct reducing restrictions where necessary, provide loans, and make business preparations. The working committee has held 6 meetings so far, and regularly does so, and made 78 decisions to remedy the economic repercussions.
U Aung Naing Oo said they have so far handed out K86.74 billion in loans to 3,094 businesses and will continue to provide loans to remaining businesses after careful reviews.
Next, Director-General U Thant Sin Lwin answered the questions on the amount of investment from China, the sector receiving the highest investments, and progress on the One Belt One Road (OBOR) Project during the new government’s administration. He said China is the second highest investor in the new government’s administration period while Singapore is at first. China has made investments worth USD 18 billion with the most finances flowing into the general sector and CMP businesses.
U Thant Sin Lwin said the ministry has not received any investment proposals concerning the OBOR Project but only through other investment models. He said his ministry and Myanmar Investment Commission do not handle the OBOR Project. Instead, it is handled by the Ministry of Planning , Finance and Industry.
Afterwards, Permanent Secretary U Aung Naing Oo and officials then replied to questions from the media on whether COVID-19 has affected the action plan for promoting investment, how the ministry is assisting businesses affected by COVID-19 and whether there are special action plans prepared for resolving these issues, how Wuntho Resources Co. Ltd did not submit their project in Wuntho Township, Sagaing Region, to Myanmar Investment Commission and the ministry’s remarks on that matter, what types of projects need to be submitted to MIC, assistance from Japan and the rest of the world during the COVID period, how MIC handles projects it has approved when they become entangled in lawsuits, whether MIC can approve of mining businesses, and whether MIC has received reports on the nature of projects being implemented on property owned by the Ministry of Defence in this year. The press conference on the Union Government’s fourth year performance will continue with the Ministry of Office of the State Counsellor, Ministry of Labour, Immigration and Population, and the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Irrigation on 26 June. —Han Myo Soe, Kaytar (Translated by Aung Khin, Zaw Htet Oo)