Category Archives: World

UK Interested in Boosting Myanmar’s Transport Infrastructure

Mr. Andrew McNaughton - UK's Prime Minister
Mr. Andrew McNaughton – UK Prime Minister’s Business Ambassador for Infrastructure

Myanmar has transitioned into a land buzzing with business opportunities, with economic avenues expanding and exhorting the attention of global companies. The latest entrant to revise and revamp the infrastructural paradigm of Myanmar is the United Kingdom. The UK has expressed interest in supporting the large-scale infrastructural requirements of Myanmar, specifically its transportation unit; railway networks, airports and rapid transit system.

This welcoming news was brought to light after UK‘s Prime Minister‘s Business Ambassador for Infrastructure – Mr. Andrew McNaughton, visited Myanmar to explore opportunities at the infrastructural front for UK’s Department of International Trade (DIT) and UK companies.

According to Mr. McNaughton “The immediate opportunity for the UK to provide support would be in transport and in particular, mass transportation rail projects and the airport development program.”

Leveraging its strength, experience, expertise and Myanmar’s immediate need for infrastructural investments, UK business companies are enthusiastic about effectuating their economic and commercial interests, at the same time, acknowledging the potential urbanization process and infrastructural development that Myanmar will significantly be impacted with.

Myanmar is looking forward to capitalizing on sources to generate financial assistance to meet its infrastructural needs. For this purpose, a robust logistics sector with a sound legal and regulatory framework is an essential and a necessary requirement to be able to build internationally aligned market structures and attract capital investments thereof.

On this, Mr. McNaughton remarked, “The establishment of a market structure requires significant development of regulations and legal structures to be able to establish an environment to contract with international organizations. UK legal, financial and support services companies have extensive experience of working with governments around the world to establish such structures.”

He also lauded British technical and technological know-how which could assist preciously in Myanmar’s railway and airport projects.

In railways, he measured and estimated upgradation of long, intercity lines connecting the major cities of Yangon, Mandalay and Nay Pyi Taw, and revamping the Yangon mass rapid transit. This arrangement aims to decongest the traffic and also boost the growth of the city to 10 million by 2040. The plans also involve the introduction of two new metro lines and development of two airports namely: Mandalay International Airport and the new Hanthawaddy International Airport in Yangon. The mid-term objective is to grow cross border international trade as well as support regional airport program.

Thus, infrastructural scope in Myanmar is colossal and plays a planetary role in the urbanization process and in boosting the economy of Myanmar. As per business experts, refinement of transportation infrastructure is the fundamental requisite in attracting inward investments, retention of human capital and in escalating trade possibilities, leading to sustainable prospects and future-oriented growth.

Remarking upon ‘more opportunities and a few challenges’ in the MyanmarUK potential alliance, Mr. McNaughton exclaimed, “As an outcome of the Brexit process, the UK government and individual businesses are seeking to establish long term relationships beyond the European Community. This is being done without having to consider the views of 26 other member states. This creates agility and a momentum that can only be an advantage to the region.”

Spain and Myanmar Engage in Bilateral Development Plans

Spain Myanmar Development

Thumping with economic exuberance and sprightly spontaneity, riding high on expansion and development plans, attracting many foreign companies – Myanmar has arrived with the promise of new beginnings and the zest for a global embrace.

Recently, a multilateral partnership meeting was held at the Melia Hotel wherein Spain came forth to seek opportunities in the fertile lands of Myanmar, while extending forth its intention in facilitating Myanmar in its development plans.The event was attended by highprofiled individuals and involved the participation of official ministries such as the Ministry of Electricity and Energy, Ministry of Finance, Yangon City Development Council, Spanish Embassy, and local and Spanish business groups.

The event was attended by high-profile individuals and involved the participation of official ministries such as the Ministry of Electricity and Energy, Ministry of Finance, Yangon City Development Council, Spanish Embassy, and local and Spanish business groups.

The event underscored Spain’s belief in building the beautiful land of pagodas by alleviating poverty in Myanmar and subsequently enabling and enhancing job opportunities.

Mr. Garzon, CEO, ICEX, Spain Trade and Investment pitched in for Spain being a beneficial multilateral partner for Myanmar, with the view, “Spanish companies can be excellent partners and they are eager to join forces with the Myanmar Government. We believe we’ll be crucial for the country’s further development, and Spanish companies are particularly proficient.”

With Myanmar allowing foreign investments after decades of seclusion, various Spanish ventures are interested in investing in the infrastructure sector of Myanmar.

The World Bank and Asian Development Bank exhibited their funding plans, laying central focus to the infrastructure sector and sovereign lending. Mr. Hideaki Iwasaki of the Asian Development Bank Regional Office pointed out that their infrastructure operations are part of the two principal projects in the current year–Highway Modernization and the Third GMS Corridor Town Development Project.

Despite being bestowed with passable resources and natural riches, the investment canvas does suffer from bottlenecks such as unskilled professionals and inefficient organizational structures which hinders the investor’s confidence and impacts the investment climate.

The Directorate of Investment, Ministry of Finance (DICA), Mr. Marlar Myo Myint, while presenting the new investment laws, remarked,“ The government is welcoming business partners who are focusing on promoting sectors such as infrastructure, agriculture, education, healthcare, technology and tourism.”

The event was imbued with active networking, discussions, business to business interactions spanning through funding, energy and transport infrastructure.

PM Modi Visits Myanmar: A Gateway to Southeast Asia

Suu Kyi & PM Narendra Modi

The recent visit by the Indian Prime Minister Mr. Narendra Modi to Myanmar underlined Modi’s ‘Act East’ policy and highlighted the significance that India attaches to fostering good relations with Myanmar. With Myanmar set to walk on the path of development and liberalisation, on the back of the first democratically elected government in 2016, PM Modi’s first official bilateral visit sought to place India as the leading partner of Myanmar and give a much-needed impetus to the relations between
the two countries.

India and Myanmar have long shared historical, ethnic, cultural and religious ties. The geographical proximity (India shares a long land border of over 1600 km and a maritime boundary in the Bay of Bengal) has helped develop cordial relations and people-to-people contact. Ever since the two countries signed a Treaty of Friendship in 1951, there has been a steady rise in the level of engagement and cooperation between them, especially in areas of infrastructure development, trade, security, energy, health, transportation and culture, to name a few.

India realises the importance of Myanmar, not only as a gateway to South-East Asia but as a crucial partner in the fight to end insurgency in India’s north-east. Myanmar is also a crucial member of the ASEAN bloc and it is in India’s interest to have a strong and prosperous Myanmar. Myanmar, too, recognises the potential of this relationship with India and received the Indian Prime Minister with great gusto. The bilateral meeting, though marked by serious hurdles in the form of the Rohingya crisis, turned out to be mutually beneficial, as eight Memorandum of Understanding (MoUs) and three agreements were signed by the two sides, covering important areas of security, infrastructure health, energy, capacity building and culture.

Map depicting India-Myanmar-Thailand Highway
Map depicting India-Myanmar-Thailand Highway

India realises the importance of Myanmar, not only as a gateway to South-East Asia but as a crucial partner in the fight to end insurgency in India’s north-east. Myanmar is also a crucial member of the ASEAN bloc and it is in India’s interest to have a strong and prosperous Myanmar. Myanmar, too, recognises the potential of this relationship with India and received the Indian Prime Minister with great gusto. The bilateral meeting, though marked by serious hurdles in the form of the Rohingya crisis, turned out to be mutually beneficial, as eight Memorandum of Understanding (MoUs) and three agreements were signed by the two sides, covering important areas of security, infrastructure health, energy, capacity building and culture.

Infrastructure

PM Modi reiterated India’s commitment to support Myanmar in building infrastructure and developing human resources capacity. Some of the projects, which directly involve India are:

  • The Trilateral Highway (India, Myanmar and Thailand), which will link India to the ASEAN bloc
  • The Kaladan Multi-modal and Transport and Transit Project, which aims to link Kolkata to Sittwe in Myanmar and from Myanmar’s Kaladan river to India’s north-east
  • Development of Industrial Training Centres at Monywa and Thaton, following the successful completion of centres at Pakokku and Myingyan
  • Myanmar is a key component of India’s strategy to bridge South and South-East Asia through Bimstec, the Bay of Bengal Inititative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation
  • Upgradation of Yagyi-Kalewa road for Rs 177 crore
  • Upgradation of the Women’s Police Training Centre at Yamethin
  • Upgradation of Yangon Childrens’ Hospital and Sittwe General Hospital
  • Construction of Monywa General Hospital
  • Operationalizing the Advanced Centre for Agricultural Research and Education set up at the Yezin Agricultural University
    and the Rice Bio Park set up at the Department of Agricultural Research
  • Commitment to construct a new hospital in Nay Pyi Taw
Kaladan Multimodel Project
Kaladan Multimodel Project

Along with these, several other projects have been agreed upon by both the countries in IT, health, entrepreneurship, language training and small border area development projects in Chin and Naga areas of Myanmar. India has also extended $750 million in soft lines of credit for other infrastructure projects.

Investment

India’s trade with Myanmar grew by 6 per cent from US $2.05 billion in 2015-16 to US $2.18 billion in 2016-17. Both countries sought to work closely with each other to realise the tremendous potential, especially given the favourable environment for investment offered by the new democratically elected regime in Myanmar.

In their joint statement, the two countries acknowledged the importance of pulses in the bilateral trade basket. India imports around a million tonnes of pulses, $1 billion in value, from Myanmar. It is vital to Myanmar’s farmers, therefore Myanmar requested India to lift all restrictions imposed on imports from Myanmar. Myanmar has also welcomed India’s participation in its energy sector and invited Indian companies to take part in tenders for petrochemicals and petroleum products, marketing infrastructure and setting up of LPG terminals. The agreement between Numaligarh Refinery of India and Parami Energy Group of Myanmar on supply of diesel to Myanmar across the land border will give people of north Myanmar cheaper and more reliable access to petroleum products. In the energy sector too, India offered its technical and project specific assistance, for instance, it offered to conduct a solar radiation resource assessment in Myanmar, it shared its experiences in power trade and discussed ways to cooperate in the field of energy efficiency between the two countries.

India’s increasing investments in Myanmar also assume importance, in the light of Chinese interest in Myanmar. China has, in recent times, increased its presence in Myanmar and is even pushing for a special economic zone at KyaukPhyu among other projects.

Cultural Engagement

Given the close cultural and religious ties the people of the two countries share, culture is bound to be an important thrust area, as was highlighted in the visit of PM Modi. The two sides signed the Cultural Exchange Programme (CEP) for the period 2017-20 and expressed confidence that this would promote cultural exchanges between Myanmar and the North-Eastern states of India. PM Modi also visited Bagan, where the Archaeological Survey of India has restored the Ananda Temple and is involved in the restoration and conservation of 92 pagodas and structures damaged by the 2016 earthquake.

Religion forms a big part of the cultural heritage of the two countries. Bodh Gaya in India remains a place of pilgrimage for the people of Myanmar. Myanmar welcomed India’s efforts in preserving the stone inscriptions and temples of King Mindon and King Bagyidaw of Myanmar in Bodh Gaya.

Another gesture that was praised and welcomed by both the Government and the people of Myanmar, was India’s decision to grant special pardon to 40 Myanmar nationals undergoing imprisonment for various crimes in India.

Former Prime Minister of India, Dr. Manmohan Singh, on his visit to Myanmar in 2012, observed that “India and Myanmar are natural partners, linked by geography and history.” With PM Modi’s emphasis on developing relations with India’s neighbours, both countries are likely to work in unison to ensure enhanced people to people contact and a healthy environment for development.

Security

The 1643 km long land border that the two countries share and the belligerent posturing by China necessitates close cooperation between India and Myanmar, vis-à-vis security and defence. This formed an important facet of the discussions held among the leaders of the two sides. Terrorism and extremist-inspired violence remain a cause of concern, to counter which, both countries have affirmed their intent to work together. The two sides condemned terrorist attacks on Amarnath Yatra and the Rakhine State, and jointly called for the quick adoption of a Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism by the UN General Assembly.

Mr. Modi’s government recently inked a US $37.9 million-worth lightweight torpedo with Myanmar. India has also begun supplying arms and communication equipment to the Armed Forces of Myanmar, to secure the sensitive border. The two sides also signed an MoU to strengthen maritime security cooperation, even in non-traditional security domains, such as “humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, which are critical for safeguarding the Bay of Bengal and the Indian Ocean.”

Indian army is engaged in providing training to the Myanmar army to prepare them for UN peace keeping duties, a step considered essential to redeem their global image.

Myanmar, on its part, reaffirmed “its respect of the sovereignty and territorial integrity of India” and upheld the policy of “not allowing any insurgent group to utilise Myanmar’s soil to undertake hostile acts against the Indian Government.”

The Rohingya Crisis

Even as India and Myanmar look to scale up their engagement, the two countries need to quickly tackle the crisis of Rohingya Muslims before it escalates into a dangerous catastrophe. PM Modi expressed his concern over the extremist violence in Rakhine and offered to fast track development projects in the troubles province of Rakhine.

At a time when State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi has come under pressure over the Rohingya crisis, PM Modi’s strong stand on the issue and support of the Myanmar government, resonated well with Myanmar. PM Modi’s government has itself taken a strong stand on the influx of about 40,000 Rohingyas over the years, threatening to deport them, as it views them as a big security threat.

The recent crisis, triggered by coordinated attacks by Rohingya militants on 25-26 August, under a recently formed Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (now designated as “terrorists”) against government and security outposts in northern Rakhine, left 110 dead, including militants, security personnel and civilians. In response, state security forces launched ‘clearance operations’ to neutralise militants and recapture seized weapons and territory. If reports are to be believed, around 270,000 Rohingyas have fled to Bangladesh, triggering a massive humanitarian crisis in the Subcontinent.

The international community has come down heavily on the Myanmar government, in what they view as ‘ethical cleansing’ and crimes against humanity. Aung San Suu Kyi has defended her handling of the crisis and said that those attacked were Jihadists and that the military action was necessary to ensure security against the extremist elements.

PM Modi reiterated India’s commitment to stand by Myanmar’s efforts to find long-lasting peace and tackling the latest surge of violence.

The transition of Myanmar into a democratic state with a democratically elected government provides an ideal opportunity to India to engage with its neighbour in a mutually beneficial arrangement. It provides fresh impetus to PM Modi’s ‘Act East’ Policy and offers a counter-narrative to China’s increasingly bullish position in the Subcontinent. Myanmar, too, stands to gain immensely through this partnership, based on the spirit of cooperation, trust and rooted in shared historical, cultural, religious and ethnic ties. The visit by PM Modi has only reaffirmed this and it bodes well for the future of India-Myanmar relations.

By Arun Arora

Celebrating 70 years of Thai – India Friendship through Football

The India All Stars Tour of Thailand

A first of its kind, football tour to boost Thai-North-East India Friendship through sports, knowledge and people to people exchange is being organized by Reach Sports Management, TranzPatkai, Askanthi Corp, Football Players Association of India and Ratchaburi FC, Thai Premier League Team. The All India Stars Football Tour of Thailand, which will support Thailand’s “Look West Policy” and India’s “Act East Policy”, will be hosted between 5-9 August 2017. The match will be played on 8 August between an Elite Thai team and the Indian team, which will comprise of 20 players, selected from the top leagues in India, most which will be represented from the North-East States of India.

The tour will comprise of a match, orientation and training sessions led by sports fraternities. The live match will be played in the expansive home stadium of Ratchaburi FC, Mitrphol Stadium. On ground training and orientations will provide international exposure to the participating teams to exchange learnings and enhance game skills and technical knowledge.

The North-East region of India and South East Asia have shared geographical landscapes, similar historical experiences, strong cultural and language affinities, community origins and a common interest in developing strong people to people bonds. Many communities in Northeast India share cultural and ethnic similarities with communities in Thailand, Laos and Myanmar including the various Tai ethnic groups such as Tai Khamti, Tai Ahom among others. Marking the 70th year anniversary of Thailand-India Friendship, the All India Stars Football tour will seek to strengthen this connection and enhance diplomatic, economic, educational and socio-cultural ties.

“Football connects people and nations, the idea behind the tour is to spread the message of peace and provide opportunities for social contact between the two countries” – says Bale Takhel, founding Trustee, TranzPatkai Trust and lead to the coordination committee from both the countries. Through the game the organizers also aim to escalate talent in both the countries and promote partnerships for sports education, training and sharing infrastructure.

Former Newcastle and England Junior international and Reach Sports Management co-founder Michael Chopra said, “We are happy to bring the best in Indian football talent to Thailand. It’s a relationship on the sporting front that we want to build and strengthen between the two nations, while for the players it is an exposure to the game of the other country.”

Official promoter Reach Sports Management was recently incorporated by former English Premier League player, Michael Chopra and Bale Takhel to help promote football in South East Asia particularly in India. The All India Stars team will be led by Renedy Singh, Former Captain of India and current President of the Football Players Association of India. Singh will be assisted by Michael Chopra former Newcastle and England international who is currently playing in the Indian Super League.

The lead sponsor for the event is PT Bemi Energi Indonesia and other sponsors include Sivana Hideaways Thailand, Motor World Bangalore Football Club, Sportsbay.in, Blue Elephant Group, Thailand among others.

The tour is the first in the roadmap for promoting the game in the region and further strengthening people-people led India’s Act East Policy Initiative. It can be a gateway to promote trade and tourism and more importantly Co-operation between Thailand and India.

All India Stars

Goalkeepers
Sandip Nandy, Subrata Paul

Defenders

Nirmal Chettri, Mehrajuddin Wadoo, Naoba Thokchom Singh, Sandesh Jhingan, Gouramangi Moirangthem Singh, Dhanachandra Singh

Midfielders

Prabir Das, Jackichand Singh, Souvik Chakraborty, Renedy Singh, Lalrindika Ralte, Seityasen Singh

Forwards

Jeje Lalpekhlua, Michael Chopra

BEMI Energi Indonesia
TransPatkai
sportsbay.in
Reach Sports
Motor World Bangalore
Sivana Hideaway
Blue Elephant

Widening Works Disconnect Tangsibji Mini Hydel

Widening Works

Tangsibji mini hydel was disconnected on May 30, 2017. This plant lit around 43 houses in Tangsibji village in Trongsa in the 80s. The boulders that were dug out during the East-West highway widening works blocked the water at the intake point in the middle of December 2016. Mr. Karma Leki, Bhutan Power Corporation’s (BPC) Division Manager in Trongsa said that he has written to the Department of Roads (DoR) to have the blockade and damages cleared at the earliest as the boulders are huge and cannot be cleared by men.

This hydel power plant being closed does not have much impact on the life of the people in the village. However, Mr. Leki feels that it remaining functional is important as it was a gift to them from Japan and holds sentimental value. The energy that the plant generates is synchronized with the eastern grid. Mr. Phub Dorji, BPC’s assistant technician stated that this plant has never broken down before,unlike many other mini hydels in the country. He further said that the engine is in good condition and can resume generation once the block is cleared. This mini Hydel is one of 10 in Bhutan and it generates 37.5 KVA.

Mr. Taugay Choidup, Chief Engineer of DoR in Trongsa, stated that he was unaware that a mini hydel is located below the highway. He further stated that what they were informed is that there is an irrigation channel below and the contractor has left the cutting incomplete at a stretch near Zalamchu fearing disruption to paddy cultivation. The cutting is planned to resume after the village completes paddy cultivation.The mini hydel is located a little above the Tangsibji village and is about 10 minutes walk from the village road.

Kingdom of Bhutan remains India’s biggest Foreign-Aid Recipient

Kingdom of Bhutan

The Kingdom of Bhutan has always had good relations with India. For the last 17 years it has also remained the biggest beneficiary of Indian foreign aid by both amount and share. Bhutan has remained India’s unfailing priority because of its strategic location, its dependence on India and its hydropower potential. Besides Bhutan, India provides aid to various other countries not only from this region but from other parts of the world as well. Other countries that India has been providing financial aid to include Afghanistan, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Maldives and some African countries among others. However, the aid given to other countries by India has fluctuated over the years while in case of Bhutan it has always been constant.

Over the last nine years, Afghanistan has made it to the second spot and has been preferred over Nepal and Bangladesh which have been the traditional recipients. Indian aid to Sri Lanka has seen a lot of fluctuations; it fell 69% year-onyear in the financial year 2016-17, and rose 118% and 166% in 2012- 13 and 2009-10 respectively. In the pre-2007-08 period, Nepal was the second-largest recipient in all years except three, when Bangladesh held that position. Before the financial year 2007-08, the foreign ministry did not even report aid for Afghanistan individually. However, in eight of last 10 years, Afghanistan has held the second spot by share. Bhutan’s share has fallen by 10.45 percentage points in the last 17 years as other countries have been eating into its share but yet it has consistently held the first spot.

SINGAPORE FIRMS RUSH TO MYANMAR

Three years after Myanmar liberalised its economy, a wave of companies from the Republic is flocking to the rapidly developing South-east Asian country – setting up upmarket pre-school centers, swanky bars and eateries, as well as building posh condominiums.

Quaich Bar and the Whisky Store, the Les Amis Group, as well as pre-school operator Modern Montessori were among the Singapore firms that have set up shop in Myanmar in the past 18 months, with the aim of cashing in on a growing middle class and the general population’s rising affluence. These latest entrants to the Myanmar market are following in the footsteps of big players, including construction and property firms such as Surbana, Soilbuild and Tiong Aik, that moved in to jostle for business deals in the first wave, when the country was looking to build its physical infrastructure.

A distinguishing feature of the second wave of Singapore companies moving into Myanmar is their decidedly lifestyle bent: They offer food and beverage, education and lifestyle services, all of which are attracting the swelling ranks of a growing middle-class that is on the move and in search of places and products to spend their new-found wealth on. Its growing middle class has bolstered sales of non-essential products, such as beauty and personal care as well as tissue and home-care products.

With more than five million people and its status as a commercial centre, Yangon is a popular starting point for companies venturing into Myanmar. Singapore companies have made good inroads in the areas of urban development, connectivity and finance. If reforms continue to stay on track, Myanmar has the potential to realise its aspirations of becoming a middle-income economy.

TO STRENGTHEN TIES: ARMY CHIEF VISITS PAKISTAN

The head of the Myanmar Army, Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, has travelled to Pakistan to meet with senior officials there, as part of plans to strengthen relations between the two countries. The Commander-in-Chief met with Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif during his visit, urging cooperation in defence, trade and investment. Sharif said that his country would like to see the bonds grow stronger “in all fields, including defense and economic cooperation.”

PARTNERSHIP FRAMEWORK FORMED BY WORLD BANK WITH MYANMAR

The World Bank has formed a partnership framework with Myanmar, which will focus on improving infrastructure, helping the country’s rural poor and supporting small businesses. As part of the 2015-2017 Country Partnership Framework (CPF), the World Bank will provide Myanmar with US$ 1.6 billion through its fund for developing countries, the International Development Association (IDA).

The Washington based lender will also provide Myanmar with US$ 1 billion in investment and US$ 20 million in technical assistance through its private sector arm, the International Finance Corporation (IFC). Ulrich Zachau, World Bank country director for Myanmar, said that the CPF is focused on reducing rural poverty, providing basic services and helping to boost the private sector. Around three million pregnant women and children will benefit from improved health services, and six million people will gain better access to electricity and other basic services under the framework, according to the World Bank.

ALL PRAISE FOR ASIA-AFRICA RELATIONS: THEIN SEIN

President U Thein Sein has made a speech praising relations between Africa and Asia at the 60th Asian-African Conference, also known as the Bandung Conference, in Bandung, West Java. H.E. Thein Sein said that he was proud that Myanmar was one of the first five countries to initiate the first Asian-African Conference in 1955, which laid down the 10 Bandung principles that aim to promote peace and cooperation between the two continents. He said that the two continents must work together to help deal with issues such as poverty, underdevelopment, water shortages and natural disasters, through trade, investment, finance and travel.