Singapore eases monetary policy, avoids recession

By AFP
14 October 2019

Singapore eases monetary policy, avoids recession
A general view shows the skyline of the financial district in Singapore. Photo: Wallace Woon/EPA

Singapore eased monetary policy for the first time in over three years Monday as the US-China trade war bites, while the export-reliant economy narrowly avoided recession in the third quarter.

The financial hub’s central bank joins others around the world, from Europe to the US, in loosening policy as fears mount of a global economic slowdown.

The city-state has traditionally been the first among Asia’s export-driven economies to be affected during a downturn, making it a closely watched barometer of global demand for goods and services for the rest of the region.

And it has been hard hit in recent months, with growth rates and exports plummeting, dragged down by a weak manufacturing sector.

The Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) said it will “reduce slightly” the slope of the band at which its currency is allowed to move, effectively allowing for a weaker dollar, as had been expected.

Instead of using interest rates, Singapore manages monetary policy by letting the local dollar rise or fall against a currency basket of its main trading partners.

“In the last six months, the drag on GDP (gross domestic product) growth exerted by the manufacturing sector has intensified, reflecting the ongoing downturn in the global electronics cycle as well as the pullback in investment spending, caused in part by the uncertainty in US-China relations,” MAS said.

Preliminary GDP data released at the same time showed Singapore’s economy narrowly avoided tipping into a technical recession.

It expanded 0.6 percent in the three months to September on a quarterly basis, bouncing back from a shock 2.7 percent second-quarter contraction. The economy grew 0.1 percent on a yearly basis.

The decline was led by the manufacturing sector, a pillar of the trade-dependent economy. The sector shrank by 3.5 percent, extending a 3.3 percent contraction the previous quarter.

Singapore’s exports have been hammered by dampened demand as the United States and China slapped tit-for-tat tariffs on each other worth billions of dollars in two-way trade, affecting export demand worldwide.

The city-state last slipped into recession in the aftermath of the global financial crisis in 2008.

© AFP

Chili price doubles in Mandalay

13 October 2019

Chili price doubles in Mandalay
Women collecting fresh red chilli in Mandalay Region. Photo: MNA

The price of chili in the markets in Mandalay has risen sharply prompting many farmers to plant the crop, according to the Global New Light of Myanmar.

The price of chilies from Pyawbwe, Yamethin, Tatgone, and Kyaukse townships has doubled from the level recorded during the same period of last year, according to sellers in the Mandalay market.

With demand growing from Thailand and China, the price of chilies has risen to K5,500 per viss (one viss equals 1.6 kg) from K2,200 in the same period last year.

In some cases, the crop is selling for as much as K10,000 per viss.

MPT granted mobile financial services licence

11 October 2019

MPT granted mobile financial services licence

MPT has been granted a mobile financial services licence by the country’s central bank after a lengthy approval process, industry website developing telecoms reported.

The market leading operator first announced its planned MPT Money service in March 2018, and has been awaiting the green light ever since. The service is aimed at accelerating Myanmar’s digital economy by fostering greater financial inclusion.

MPT’s managing director U Khin Maung Tun said that the service would be launching very soon, providing secure and quick access to banking services supported by a nationwide network of financial agents, according to the report.

Legendary Chang Beer now Brewed & Served…

09 October 2019

Legendary Chang Beer now Brewed & Served Fresh in Myanmar
 Fraser and Neave, Limited (“F&N”) celebrated the launch of commercial operations at Emerald Brewery Myanmar Limited (“Emerald Brewery”), a year after committing an investment of US$70 million in Myanmar. Photos: Emerald Brewery

(ADVERTORIAL)

Beer lovers are in for a treat as local production of Chang Beer begins at the new state-of-the-art brewery, with the launch of nationwide distribution seeing products hit the shelves this week.

#ChangBeer is kicking off under the motto #TimeForAChange #TimeForChang #ChangBeer, a major commitment by Fraser and Neave, Limited launching commercial operations at Emerald Brewery Myanmar Limited, a year after committing an investment of a hefty US$70 million in Myanmar.

Beer aficionados around the world shout for Chang Beer that began its life in neighbouring Thailand and took the world by storm – chang standing for elephant in local parlance.

Now Myanmar beer lovers can join in ☺

Through Emerald Brewery, F&N will contribute to Myanmar’s economic and social success by investing in local manufacturing, employing local people, engaging local suppliers and distributors and supporting community investment programmes.

Speaking at the launch party, Mr Koh Poh Tiong, Chairman of the F&N Board Executive Committee shared, “We are pleased to re-establish F&N’s presence in Myanmar’s beer market and our investment reflects the great potential we see in this fast-growing market. We have worked swiftly to build our new brewery, operations and business; and are confident that our two decades’ experience in Myanmar will propel our new venture forward.”

As Mr Koh stressed, this would be a win-win situation for #ChangBeer popularity, the company, and the local staff players from the brewery through to the bars, hotels, restaurants and stores that will be involved.

Mr Edmond Neo, F&N Chief Executive Officer, was upbeat on using #ChangBeer to make Emerald Brewery one of the leading breweries in Myanmar, together with their local partner and ThaiBev, their strategic partner.

He expressed confidence that the world-class brewery and #TimeForAChange #TimeForChang will make #ChangBeer the beer of choice with Myanmar beer fans.

The hope is that local consumers will be bowled over ☺

The company says sustainability and innovation are grounded in the operations at Emerald Brewery in terms of solar, energy-saving, and wastewater treatment – everything a modern state-of-the-art brewery should be ☺

Critically important is that Emerald Brewery follows the same approach taken at the Chang Beer brewery in Thailand, right down to the water treatment, recipe and ingredients used – ensuring the water’s high purity and adhering to WHO standards. 

Mr Koh Tai Hong, Managing Director, Emerald Brewery, says they will ensure the well-established brewing approach for Chang Beer is upheld so that Myanmar consumers can enjoy the same award-winning taste that the rest of the world has come to love.

Beer lovers will be able to choose from five #ChangBeer formats – 330ml and 500ml cans, 320ml and 620ml bottles and a 30-litre keg.

Whatever the occasion, it is clear the motto will hold true – #TimeForAChange #TimeForChang ☺

295,284 local and foreign travellers visit Bagan…

09 October 2019

295,284 local and foreign travellers visit Bagan Archaeological Museum
Bagan Archaeological Museum has a fascinating collection of exhibits. Photo: MNA

A total of 295,284 local and foreign travellers visited the Bagan Archaeological Museum in Nyaung-U District of Mandalay Region in the 2018-2019 fiscal, State media reported.

The Bagan Archaeological Museum is situated south of the Gawdawpalin temple in old Bagan, Nyaung-U Township. It is open daily from 9:30 am to 4:30 pm, except on Mondays and public holidays. The entrance fee is K5,000 for foreigners and K500 for local travellers.

In the 2018-2019 FY, 284,930 locals and 10,354 foreigners visited the museum. In 2017, a children’s museum was also opened near the museum. Children can read books at the children’s museum.

Myanmar Private Equity & Venture Capital…

08 October 2019

Myanmar Private Equity & Venture Capital Association formed
Photo: AFP

Private equity firms have come together to form the Myanmar Private Equity & Venture Capital Association to give institutional investors a voice when engaging with the local authorities, industry website internationalinvestment.net reported.

Backed by the UK’s CDC Group, the association was officially launched in Naypyidaw and aims to meet every month for training or networking purposes.

The association currently has 11 full members including Anthem Asia, an independent private equity firm and Yangon Capital Partners, a venture capital firm set up by Trust Venture Partners. 

The membership organisation also counts Delta Capital, Japanese Daiwa PI Partners, London-listed Myanmar Strategic Holdings and YGA Capital among its founding members.

Myanmar attracts more than 4.15 billion USD of…

07 October 2019

Myanmar attracts more than 4.15 billion USD of foreign investment FY 2018-2019
Vehicles travel along office and hotel area of Sule Road in central Yangon. Photo: Sai Aung Mai/AFP

Myanmar attracted more than 4.15 billion USD of foreign investment in the fiscal year 2018-2019 that ended in September, vietnamplus reported.

The figure declined by over 1.5 billion USD from FY 2017-2018, when over 5.7 billion USD of foreign investment was poured into the country, according to the Directorate of Investment and Company Administration of Myanmar.

From October 1, 2018 to September 30 this year, the Myanmar Investment Commission approved projects of over 282 foreign enterprises.

Japan tops list of foreign investors in SEZs

08 October 2019

Japan tops list of foreign investors in SEZs
A staff members worker on the production line at the Suzuki Thilawa Motor Co., Ltd. in the Thilawa Special Economic Zone (SEZ) on the outskirt of Yangon, Myanmar, 21 August 2019. Photo: Nyein Chan Naing/EPA

Foreign investments of US$362.28 million flowed into the Special Economic Zones (SEZs), under the Special Economic Zone Law, in the 2018-2019 fiscal year, according to figures released by the Directorate of Investment and Company Administration, state media reported.

A total of 106 enterprises from 18 countries and four local businesses have ploughed in $1.84 billion so far in the zones, data on FDI of existing enterprises shows. Japan topped the list of foreign investors in the previous fiscal, accounting for more than 36 per cent of the overall investment, followed by Singapore and Thailand.

FDI also flowed into the SEZs from the Republic of Korea, Hong Kong, the UK, Australia, the UAE, Malaysia, Austria, China (Taipei), Panama, China, Brunei, Viet Nam, France, Switzerland, and the Netherlands.

Currently, 74 businesses are operating in the Thilawa SEZ, and 18 businesses are beginning to export goods. The SEZ is employing over 20,000 workers, including permanent and construction workers, according to the management committee.

New bridge boosts Thai-Myanmar ties

06 October 2019

New bridge boosts Thai-Myanmar ties
(File) Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha (R) and Myanmar's state counselor Aung San Suu Kyi (L) clapping during an event to mark the completion of the second Thailand-Myanmar Friendship Bridge in the Thai-Myanmar border city of Mae Sot, Tak province, Thailand, 19 March 2019. Photo: Royal Thai Government

Bilateral border trade between Thailand and Myanmar is expected to flourish after the second Thai-Myanmar Friendship Bridge becomes fully operational, starting from Oct 30.

Niyom Wairatpanich, vice-chairman of the Thai Chamber of Commerce, said the bridge is vital to boost border trade between the two countries, increasing trade flow and logistics services through Mae Sot.

Thailand’s border trade with Myanmar totalled 193 billion baht last year, up 4.9% from a year before. Border trade through Mae Sot amounted to 80 billion baht in 2018.

Thailand’s overall border trade with all four neighbours rose 4% last year to 1.12 trillion baht, with exports making up 651 billion baht, down 0.5%, and imports worth 474 billion, up 11%.

Malaysia was the biggest partner for border trade, with two-way border trade amounting to 572 billion baht, up 1.3%, followed by Laos (214 billion baht, up 3.2%) and Cambodia (146 billion baht, up 16.4%).

For the first eight months, Thailand-Myanmar trade accounted for 18.3% of total border trade volume, totalling 55.0 billion baht, a 4.27% decrease.

Exports made up 47.1 billion baht, down 14.6%, with imports worth 7.88 billion, up 6.63%.

The top five export products through the Mae Sot checkpoint were energy drinks, motorcycles, diesel oil, mobile phones with components, and dried betel nut, while the top five import products were corn, live cows and buffaloes, old slabs, and transformers.

Mr Niyom said with the new friendship bridge, the border trade value via Mae Sot is expected to top 100 billion baht in 2020.

Kich Aungvitulsalit, chairman of the Thai-Myanmar Business Council, said exports from Thailand are likely to increase by more than 30% once the new bridge is open.

Mae Sot contributes a major share — up to 60% — of total border trade between Thailand and Myanmar, followed by Mae Sai and Ranong-Kaw Thaung checkpoints.

Mr Kich said popular products among Myanmar consumers are consumer goods, construction materials and finished oil.

In a related development, Commerce Minister Jurin Laksanawisit held a meeting yesterday with the joint public and private sector consultative committee on Thailand-Myanmar border trade promotion at Mae Sot to boost border trade between the two countries.

Higher border trade could offset lower overall exports, which are suffering from the ongoing trade war and stronger baht, he said.

It is the third meeting on border trade promotion chaired by Mr Jurin after one in Sadao in Songkhla province to boost Thailand-Malaysia border trade and another in Mukdahan to help trade with Laos.

The next meeting is scheduled for Sa Kaeo near the Cambodian border.

Courtesy of the Bangkok Post

Asian markets mixed ahead of US jobs data as…

By AFP
05 October 2019

Asian markets mixed ahead of US jobs data as economy fears build
A man watches a monitor at a stock exchange in Taipei, Taiwan. Photo: David Chang/EPA

Asian markets were mixed Friday as investors tentatively await the release of key US jobs data later in the day, following a number of disappointing figures this week that fanned concerns about the world’s top economy.

Hong Kong tumbled, with property firms among the worst hit, as demonstrators took to the streets again to protest the imposition of a law banning face masks following months of sometimes violent protests.

Having avoided for the past few years the growth slowdowns suffered in most other countries, a big miss on factory activity and private jobs creation indicated the United States is now feeling the effects of its long-running trade war with China.

On Thursday a measure of the crucial services sector came in at its lowest for three years, ramping up expectations the Federal Reserve will cut interest rates for a third time this year at its October meeting.

The latest data, while missing expectations, provided a lift to Wall Street — which had plunged more than one percent on Tuesday and Wednesday — as dealers bet on another reduction.

Expectations are high for such a move.

“A quicker slowing in economic activity will put another brick in the Fed’s wall of worries about business confidence and investment and may trigger a significant policy response,” said Stephen Innes, Asia-Pacific market strategist at AxiTrader.

“Is bad news good news still? Indeed, that does appear to be the case after the markets fully priced in a Fed rate cut in October and priced in December, suggesting that it’s monetary policy that continues to remain one of the essential drivers of investor sentiment.”

But OANDA senior market analyst Jeffrey Halley added that while markets “pricing in an almost 100 percent certainty” for a rate cut, the bank could hold its horses for now.

“With trade talks between the US and China restarting next week in Washington it would make complete sense (for the Fed) to see if any progress is made,” he said in a note.

– Hong Kong sinks –

Tokyo rose 0.3 percent, Sydney was up 0.4 percent, Seoul fell 0.6 percent, Taipei added 0.2 percent and Wellington gained 0.7 percent.

Manila rallied more than one percent, while there were also gains in Jakarta and Bangkok.

Mumbai fell 0.7 percent after the Indian central bank announced a rate cut as expected but also slashed its economic growth outlook. Shanghai was closed for a holiday.

Hong Kong sank 1.1 percent as the city’s government announced the face mask ban as it looks to quell demonstrations that have rocked the economy. But there are worries that the rarely-used colonial-era emergency power could lead to further confrontations or more, stricter laws later.

Henderson Land, Sino Land, Swire Properties and New World Development all lost more than one percent.

“It’s the response from protesters to whatever is going to be decided that matters,” Jessie Guo, equity research strategist at China Merchants Securities, told Bloomberg News. “The market is concerned that protesters are going to carry on.”

The prospect of lower rates weighed on the dollar, which was down against most higher-yielding, riskier currencies such as the South Korean won and Indonesian rupiah.

It was also off against the pound, despite uncertainty about the outlook for Britain’s economy after Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s latest Brexit plan failed to win over the EU, just weeks before the October 31 Brexit day.

Johnson has warned that he will withdraw without a deal if the two sides do not reach an agreement, which has fuelled concerns about a deep recession in the already stumbling British economy.

In early trade London and Paris each added 0.3 percent, while Frankfurt gained 0.2 percent.

AFP