Nov 24, 2014

Permanent Residency System for Foreigners in December

A permanent residency (PR) system for foreigners will be introduced, starting in the first week of December, according to a senior official from the Ministry of Immigration and Population.

The PR system will enable eligible foreign applicants to stay in Myanmar for five years, with a possibility of further extension.

More details, including criteria for the applicants and application fees, will be released when the system is launched, U Maung Maung Than, director general of the National Registration Department under the ministry, told Myanmar Business Today.

“By applying this system, we will attract more people as well as more investors to our country,” he said.

The system will also provide a solution to former Myanmar citizens residing in foreign countries who want to return to their home country without having to deal with complicated applications as well as an opportunity for those who want to hold Myanmar citizenship, he said.

Currently Myanmar issues several types of visas including tourist visa, business visa, entry visa, transit visa, diplomatic visa and multiple-journey entry visa. A maximum stay of one year is granted to business and social visa types.

The PR system is aimed to grant residency through specific regulations aimed at foreign experts, intellectuals, investors and businesspeople required by the country, former citizens who can contribute to the development of the country and foreign citizens who have are the descendants of from one or more Myanmar citizens, according to the ministry.

In addition, the ministry says it is trying to expedite the processing system for entry into the country and has abolished the Departure Form (D-Form) requirement which posted obstacles to outbound travelers in March 2013.

Foreign arrivals into Myanmar has been steadily rising since 2011 from 0.82 million in 2011 and 1.06 million in 2012 to 2.04 million in 2013. Tthe number has crossed 2.5 million as of October this year, while the figure is expected to cross 3 million by year end, according to the Ministry of Hotels and Tourism.

Source: Myanmar Business Today

Myanmar Named World’s Most Generous Country

Myanmar came out as the most generous country in the world, along with the United States, beating out top global economies when it comes to giving, according to the World Giving Index 2014.

Myanmar and the US shared a 64 percent generosity rating, followed by Canada, Ireland, New Zealand and Australia, Charities Aids Foundation (CAF), a British charity organisation, revealed in the recently published index.

Only five countries in the G20, a bloc of the world’s largest economies, made it to the top 20 of the index.

Respondents of the survey were asked if they donated money, volunteered with an organisation or helped a stranger in the past month and the answers were averaged to determine a final score. The report was based on Gallup data collected across 135 countries.

Myanmar improved on its joint second place reported in 2013, with an increase from 58 percent to 64 percent in the index.

Myanmar’s lead ranking is mainly due to an extraordinarily high incidence of donating money, which has seen a further uplift this year to stand at 91 percent from 85 percent revealed in last year’s report.

Nine out of ten people within Myanmar follow the Theravada school of Buddhism, under which the lives of the Sangha (ordained monks and nuns) are supported by dana (charitable giving) by lay followers of the religion. This translates into a strong culture of charity, with Myanmar ranked first for donating money and 13 percentage points ahead of the second placed country, CAF said. Sri Lanka, another country with a strong Theravada Buddhist community, also ranked within the top 10 of the index (placed 9th).

The United States is the only country to rank in the top 10 for all three kinds of giving covered by the index: helping a stranger (1st), volunteering time (joint 5th) and donating money (9th).

The report reveals that the trend of giving is not tied to the wealth of a country, and a prosperous economy also does not guarantee higher levels of giving money. Despite the growing economies of “BRIC” countries – Brazil, Russia, India and China – only the latter has seen an increase in donating money to charity since last year, although all four saw an increase in volunteering.

The countries which comprise the top 10 remain largely the same as those reported in 2013. Of most significance is the entrance of Malaysia in seventh place, from a 2013 reported ranking of seventy-one, reflecting a 26 percentage point increase in its World Giving Index score.

Source: Myanmar Business Today

Nov 22, 2014

Yangon’s Hero, Wielding Power of Stop and Go

For 12 hours nearly every day, Sgt. Khin Myint Maung stands in one of the most chaotic intersections in this chronically gridlocked city, untangling traffic snarls with patience and unflagging good humor. It is not the most likely résumé for a recipient of a hero of the year award from a leading daily newspaper, or designation as a “role model” officer by the Yangon police force or a “real-life hero” by a German foundation. But the 26-year-old from the provinces, only recently promoted to sergeant, has earned all those awards, rising to fame purely by word of mouth. It is nearly impossible to find a taxi driver in Yangon who does not wax lyrical about the sergeant’s ability to direct traffic through rainstorms and searing heat. “We looove him,” U Nay Win Hlaing, a 37-year-old taxi driver, shouted recently. “There’s no one who doesn’t like him.” Twice as many cars now drive the streets of Yangon as did three years ago, when Myanmar lifted severe limits on vehicle imports. Credit Tomas Munita for The New York Times These days, though, the emergence of debilitating gridlock in Yangon is perhaps the most obvious sign that after five decades of cloistered military rule, Myanmar is finally open for business. It has taken only three years for the number of cars registered in the city to double, to more than 400,000. And in this new Myanmar, where car ownership is no longer the exclusive domain of the superrich, Sergeant Khin Myint Maung has emerged as a new sort of civic hero. Not a human rights campaigner, not a philanthropist nor someone who saved puppies from a blazing fire, but a traffic cop. Men in uniform are still widely feared and despised in Myanmar, but Sergeant Khin Myint Maung has won the hearts of legions of erstwhile grumpy drivers who roll down their windows and hand him frosty bottles of water and boxes of food. They also give him cash, a gesture that would be inappropriate in the West but that motorists say shows their gratitude and is an unsolicited supplement to his paltry salary. The sergeant accepts all this booty with a flash of his perfect white teeth gleaming in the tropical sun. On the few days Sergeant Khin Myint Maung has been absent from his post, the surrounding neighborhood has descended into chaos, including two months ago when he traveled to Naypyidaw, the country’s capital, for the ceremony marking his promotion to sergeant. “For three days, it was terrible. Everyone was honking. Cars weren’t moving. Everyone was upset,” said Daw Phyu Phyu, who manages a shop nearby. Sergeant Khin Myint Maung’s popularity is not a vote of confidence in the traffic police, who are notorious for shaking down motorists, nor is it a tribute to a new government made up largely of holdovers from the military regime that preceded it. If anything, his fans say, praise for the sergeant is implicit criticism of the rest of the traffic police and the bureaucracy. “You could never count on civil servants before to do their job,” said U Pe Myint, a commentator and columnist. “Here is a civil servant who is doing his duty.” Continue reading the main story Continue reading the main story Continue reading the main story Heroes are scarce in Myanmar. The society is stacked with officials, businessmen and informants who served or collaborated with the brutal, dictatorial junta that imprisoned thousands of dissidents and treated ordinary citizens with derision. “It’s very hard to find civil servants worthy of the award,” said Daw Nyein Nyein Naing, the executive editor of 7 Day News Journal, which began bestowing its annual hero trophies in 2012, around the time the country’s media was unshackled from five decades of censorship. “Every year, we go through a lot of names,” Ms. Nyein Nyein Naing said. “But we look at their backgrounds, and we find things that disqualify them as heroes.” Change in Myanmar is proceeding at varying speeds. Bureaucrats still wait for orders as they did during military rule. Farmers remain dirt poor. The middle class is seeing only a small fraction of the lucrative jobs that the government promised to deliver. Photo Sgt. Khin Myint Maung’s easy smile and his skill at keeping cars moving have made him a favorite of the city’s taxi drivers. Credit Tomas Munita for The New York Times But the streets of Yangon look nothing like those of five years ago, when most of the cars were so old and dilapidated that downtown traffic resembled a rolling junkyard. Forty-year-old jalopies spewed oil onto the pavement, and on rainy days customers had to place their feet over the holes in the floors of taxis to avoid water gushing up from below. Then, three years ago, the government lifted its severe restrictions on car imports and, as if a switch had been flicked, a car culture was born in Yangon. Used car lots, mostly selling secondhand imports from Japan, became ubiquitous. A radio station with traffic reports is now essential listening for those wishing to avoid the worst gridlock. When President Obama visited this month, residents complained that closed roads had created an “Obama jam.” The traffic police started a Facebook page this year that encourages drivers to send in photos of other drivers breaking the law. U Win Tin, 34, a woodcarver who lives on the outskirts of Yangon, used to spend half an hour riding to his stall near Shwedagon Pagoda, a famed golden Buddhist shrine. Now the commute takes two hours on a sweltering bus with no air-conditioning. The upside, he said, is that business has picked up with the influx of tourists from China and South Korea who place orders for wooden Buddhas. “I liked the easy traffic of the past, but I wouldn’t want to go back to the old days,” he said. The secondhand Japanese imports vie with an array of luxury and exotic cars. Sergeant Khin Myint Maung directs Range Rovers that would not look out of place in Beverly Hills and American S.U.V.s that seem far too wide for Yangon’s roads. In a stark reminder of the gulf between rich and poor in Myanmar, he is paid the equivalent of $150 a month, a salary that might buy him one of those cars at the end of his career — if he saved every penny. The third of five children from a rice-farming family in a remote village three miles from the Bay of Bengal, he shows no resentment toward the wealth that flashes past, only Buddhist fatalism. “Everyone has their own destiny,” he said during a break from directing traffic at the corner of Dhammazedi and Link Roads, his usual spot not far from Shwedagon Pagoda. “The rich are rich because they did many good things in their past life. Everyone has their own place.” The sergeant is generous with his smile but thrifty with words. When he accepted his hero award in 2012, he stood onstage in a large banquet hall in a Yangon hotel. “We gave him three minutes for a speech,” said Ms. Nyein Nyein Naing, who headed the awards committee. “He just said, ‘Thank you,’ ” she recalled. “And of course he smiled.” Source: New York Times

Bindez: The search engine 'creating Google' for Myanmar

As Myanmar develops, so too are the technical tools its people are using. Bindez started life as a web search engine dealing with the complexities of the Burmese language, but it has developed into an app-based business because of the proliferation of mobile phones. Chief executive and co-founder of Bindez, Rahul Batra, explains how the business works. For the video, please click HERE

Nov 21, 2014

Myanmar Tech Startup NEX Gets European Finance to Develop “Fyre”

Myanmar’s untapped market for mobile and digital development businesses is opening up and investors are eyeing a wide range of promising opportunities within the Southeast Asian nation’s fast growing IT sector.

One of the leading local mobile and digital startup NEX, founded in 2013, is now set to grow faster with the successful completion of new round of fundraising.

In the second seed round, Blibros Ltd, the privately-held investment arm of Sweden’s Böcker family, agreed to invest $150,000.

Singapore-based Blibros has a special worldwide interest on investing in IT companies.

“The investment landscape in Myanmar is very attractive for many investment firms with a wide range of opportunities from startups to medium-sized businesses to joint ventures with large local firms,” said Blibros CEO Jonas Lindstörm.

“The opportunities have never been better as the country’s IT sector is on the verge of great developments. NEX has some great ideas and implementation abilities. Its new product ‘Fyre’ is something we wanted to be a part of. We hope our investment will help speed Fyre’s development.”

Fyre is a web-based SaaS (Software as a service) that will help businesses build their own applications: it does not require any programming knowledge. With mobile penetration rate growing rapidly, NEX said it hopes Fyre will become a handy tool for all businesses.

NEX was founded by Ye Myat Min, an IT entrepreneur who has been involved with developing mobile applications, websites, UI and UX designs as well as project managing mobile and digital project for clients across the Asia-Pacific region.

“We are grateful to Blibros for showing confidence in NEX. We have many other exciting developments ... We will keep up our momentum and further upgrade our resources,” Ye Myat Min said.

One of NEX’s first round angel investors, Ned Phillips, said: “I have been pleased with the growth of the company so far. The people are working hard and have come up innovative products such as Fyre and Hush.” The latter is location-based social network mobile app where users can post anonymous messages with just a mobile phone number.

Ravi Chabbra of local tech firm GMIT said: “It has been a joy to watch NEX develop. ...With NEX we can see and feel the start of a new wave of innovation in the country.”

Myanmar’s IT start up scene is growing rapidly. Since 2013 a number of platforms have started to encourage and mentor firms like NEX. Ooredoo, one of Myanmar’s two foreign telecoms players, has supported startups through Ideabox, its incubation program. Every month players and would-be investors meet at Mobile Monday Yangon, a monthly IT focused social networking event.

Source: Myanmar Business Today

Market Open for More ISP Players: Minister

More internet service providers (ISP) may enter the Myanmar market as the telecommunications bylaws have been passed, U Thaung Tin, deputy minister for telecommunication and information technology, said.

“When the time comes, we will establish a telecommunication commission to protect the consumers and to supervise the service. The ministry will only take care of policy,” he said.

Since telecoms reforms started early last year, the ministry did not get involved in any service providing businesses and only focused on policies that are beneficial to telecommunications sector, he added.

“It will be good to have many ISPs in the country. Currently, Redlink, which is the sole private provider of internet services in the country, is not available in every area and the service is not always good,” said U Zaw Win Htun, the executive of Myanmar Computer Professional Association.

Redlink Communications Ltd, co-owned by Toe Naing Mann, son of Parliament Speaker Thura U Shwe Mann, provides Wimax coverage in few areas of Yangon, Mandalay and Bagan and has a monopoly over the market. The firm often comes under fire from users for its spotty coverage, overpriced deals and poor customer service.

“We have no choice but to use it for now, but when foreign companies enter the market, we can expect better quality service,” U Zaw Win Htun said.

With foreign entry, the public will be able to choose from a range of quality services, but the key improvement will be increased accountability to the customers, he added.

Source: Myanmar Business Today

Nov 20, 2014

Philippines' Ayala Land enters booming Myanmar property market

Philippine property giant Ayala Land Inc. is breaking into Myanmar (Burma) booming property market in partnership with City Mart Holdings, the leading local retailer there, as part of its road map for Southeast Asian expansion.

Paolo Borromeo, head of corporate strategy and development group at ALI's parent conglomerate Ayala Corp., said in a recent briefing that the group had identified concrete projects but has yet to finalise details in terms of contribution to the partnership.

In Myanmar as well as in Vietnam, the group was looking at mixed-use developments but noted that these would still be very small compared to ALI's existing businesses.

City Mart Holdings operates multiple retail formats in Myanmar, including supermarkets, bakeries, cafes, pharmacies, baby accessories and convenience stores. The group's founder and manager director, Tint Win Win, also founded the Pahtama Group in 1997, the leading and fastest-growing distributor of consumer products in Myanmar.

Tint, tagged by the media as Myanmar "supermarket queen", was in town in May during the World Economic Forum on East Asia 2014 hosted by the Philippines.

"What City Mart wants to do is they have properties they want to develop," Borromeo said, adding that the partnership would start with projects in the capital city of Yangon.

"For us, one of the big learnings in going abroad is the importance of partnership especially in countries we know nothing about. So in those places, we have what we believe are very strong partners," Borromeo said.

The partnership with City Mart also increases the Ayala group's presence in Myanmar, which has been in the global spotlight in the past few years since coming out of five decades of economic and political isolation. As Myanmar is seen as the "last frontier" in Southeast Asia-which is set to integrate into a single economic community starting 2015-property prices and rental rates in that country has skyrocketed in recent years as land and building supply could not cope with demand.

Given this shortfall in real estate space especially for the bandwagon of foreign investors interested in Myanmar, property development is thus seen by Ayala as a window of opportunity to expand its presence there.

Earlier, another operating unit, Manila Water Co., entered into a joint project with Mitsubishi Corp. of Japan and the Yangon City Development Council for a non-revenue reduction programme in Myanmar.

Borromeo said he could not talk yet about the details of the upcoming projects.

"At this level, we have identified countries where we feel can expand as a group and we'll use water and real estate as our beachfront," Borromeo said. Apart from Myanmar, Ayala is keen on expanding to Vietnam and Indonesia.

"Our strategy is different. We have to be more patient when it comes to international businesses so we'll take the opportunities as they come," he said.

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