In continuation of the Union Ministries’ reviews on their second one-year performance, the Ministry of Commerce, Ministry of the State Counsellor’s Office, Ministry of Industry, and the Office of the Auditor General of the Union held a press conference in Nay Pyi Taw yesterday.
Ministry of Commerce
Deputy Minister U Aung Htoo said his ministry has shifted focus from controlling trade to supporting and promoting it and is employing indirect tactics to that end. He said their goal is to triple exports by Fiscal Year 2020-2021, and reported that in FY 2017-2018, Myanmar’s imports generated US$14.83 billion, an increase of US$3.80 billion in imports from US$11.13 billion in FY 2015-2016
The Ministry of Commerce has removed license requirements for 3,345 items of export and 4,818 items of import to promote more trade. They have also approved of joint ventures with foreign companies for agricultural machinery, and approved domestic trade among foreign and joint-venture companies for fertilizer, crop seeds, pesticides, medical apparatus, and construction equipment. The ministry also approved live export of oxen, cattle, goats and sheep, trade of gold, gold artifacts and jewellery, and wholesale and retail joint-ventures with foreign companies.
In FY 2015-2016, the national trade deficit was US$5.44 billion, but in FY 2017-2018 imports of textiles, natural gases, rice and maize reduced the national trade deficit by US$3.84 billion.
The ministry has collaborated with a Korean company to build a logistic hub in Hlinethaya Township to promote support and transportation, and will continue to build logistic hubs throughout the country.
The ministry as of 2018 has assumed the task of sending commercial attaché and trade representatives, and currently has 11 diplomats assigned to foreign countries. The ministry is working on sending diplomats to Eastern Europe, Latin America, Africa, and the Middle East in the near future.
Future plans also include building an International Trade Centre on Merchant Street in Yangon to promote products made in Myanmar and will also establish EU help desks and South Korea help desks.
The ministry has established Central Trade Promotion Departments in 12 capitals of Myanmar’s States and Regions, as well as consumer information and complaint centres.
The ministry is set to amend the Consumer Protection Law 2014 to make it more comprehensive in protecting the public and has set up laboratories to examine imported products.
Ministry of the Office of the State Counsellor
Director General U Zaw Htay said their ministry is working in accordance with the three sectors of Peace, Prosperity, and Democracy (PPD) laid forth by the State Counsellor.
He said the ministry has continued the work of the Union Peace-making Working Committee (UPWC) and the Myanmar Peace Centre (MPC), which was formed during former President U Thein Sein’s administration. The ministry has achieved bilateral agreements and the nationwide ceasefire agreement (NCA) during the incumbent government’s administration.
Consequently there are now Ethnic Armed Organizations (EAOs) that have not signed or accepted the NCA, and to deal with this, two institutions were established, namely the Union Peace Dialogue Joint Committee (UPDJC) and the Union Joint Monitoring Committee (JMC-U).
The UPDJC includes the government, the military, Hluttaw MPs, EAOs, and political parties. The JMC includes the government, EAOs, and the Civil Society Organisations (CSOs).
Put simply, political reports from national dialogues are reviewed by a working committee and then submitted to the UPDJC, which then submits it to a conference. If disagreements arise, then the Joint Implementation Coordination Meeting (JICM) holds a meeting with high-level officials and leaders to sort out the issues. After an agreement is reached, it is finally submitted to the Hluttaw.
There have been seven JICM meetings, fourteen UPDJC meetings, sixteen JMC-U meetings, and during the current administration, the 21st Century Panglong — Peace Conference was held twice.
The State Counsellor has publicly announced that federal principles will be completed before the 2020 elections, and after obtaining union accord, there will be a rise in public-private partnerships (PPPs).
The government has strategic plans for each state and region, and the EAOs have their own projects as well and will have to decide which of the thirteen PPP models will best suit the region. There are also cases where the PPP model may not be suitable.
The Joint Coordination Body (JCB) has outlined the use of the national budget and official development assistance (ODA) to achieve these goals. The JCB includes the government and both signatories and non-signatories. Currently, EAOs are pursuing their agenda in the JCB with help from foreign entities.
Office of the Auditor General
Permanent Secretary Daw Khin San Oo said that they have amended the Union Auditor General Law, allotted more authority to state and regional auditors, amended the Myanmar Accountancy Council Law and the Public Accountancy Negligence Law, drawn the National Strategic Plan 2018-2022, made changes to the public finance administration system, and implemented changes made by the Myanmar Institute of Certified Public Accountants,
The Union Auditor General’s Office has also collaborated with Asian Development Bank (ADB), the Office of the Auditor General of Norway, The German Society for International Cooperation (GIZ), and the European Union.
With regard to the ASEAN Mutual Recognition Agreement (MRA) on Accountancy Services, professional accountants from ASEAN countries have been providing non-accountancy services in Myanmar as well.
Ministry of Industry’s Pharmaceutical factories
U Ko Ko Lwin, Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Industry, said Ministry of Industry has upgraded its pharmaceutical factories and has been producing over 200 kinds of medicines following the GMP Guidelines of the World Health Organization.
Following the negotiation with Lao and Cambodia to export antivenom to the south-east Asian countries, the ministry exported freeze-dried 300 bottles to Cambodia and 200 bottles to Lao at the price of US$22 per bottle. Meanwhile, the factories has produced first aid kits for emergency use in disasters.
Improvement in Textile Sector and contributions to health care sector
The ministry has modernized weaving machines and produced marketable textiles.
Ministry of Industry has also produced seven kinds of furniture for hospitals and medical tools for surgical operation meeting the medical grade. With the use of India technology, the ministry joining hands with private sector has produced over 2.3 million lbs of textile and contributed new uniforms for the employees of the Ministry of Health and Sports. Besides, the ministry produced school uniforms for teachers of the Ministry of Education.
Ministry of Industry has assembled standard type ambulances for the Ministry of Health and Sports. Ministry of Industry owns 58 factories while running 57 factories with joint venture business with a private companies. The ministry has planned to privatize eight state-owned factories.
To develop the small and medium enterprises nationwide, the ministry formed SME agencies in regions and states. Up to 15 February 2018, the ministry, joining hands with the SME Development Bank, the Myanma Insurance, the Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corporation-SMBC and private banks, CB Bank, KBZ Bank and SMIDB, has granted loans to 225 SMEs under the CGI schemes.
The ministry has disbursed SME loans amounted to Ks 57.634 billion through six private banks. The two step loan were granted by Japan International Cooperation Agency-JICA from 2015 to 2017.
By Han Mhwae, Lin Naing (MNA)