Mekong Monitor: Myanmar, Thailand, Japan to form a committee to develop Dawei SEZ
Photo credit: Myanmar Times
TRADE, ECONOMY, AND INVESTMENT
Myanmar, Thailand, Japan to form a committee to develop Dawei SEZ
(25 July 2019) The Myanmar, Thailand and Japan governments will form a Joint Cooperation Committee to discuss the development of the Dawei Special Economic Zone (SEZ) which was halted in 2013 due to a lack of funding. According to a Myanmar commerce ministry official, Japan’s participation in the project is expected to help woo investors, in part because of Japan’s reputation for “quality and trustworthiness.” Dawei SEZ initially kicked off after a memorandum of understanding was signed between the Myanmar and Thai governments in 2008, with Thai construction firm Italian-Thai Development leading the project. Dawei SEZ is located in Myanmar’s southeast Thanintharyi region, covering 20,000 hectares of land and including port and industrial facilities.
Cross-border trade deal saw bilateral trade expand by 13% annually since 2015
(26 July 2019) A meeting hosted by the Vietnamese Ministry of Industry and Trade on July 26 to review the impact of the Vietnam-Laos bilateral cross-border trade agreement found that the agreement — which was signed in 2015 — has indeed contributed to bilateral trade growth. According to data from Vietnam’s Ministry of Planning and Investment (MPI), Vietnamese investors have invested US$5.1 billion in 292 Lao projects in the past three years, including in 110 projects worth US$2.7 billion in 10 Lao provinces bordering Vietnam. Bilateral trade has also grown at around 13% annually during the period to over US$1.03 billion in 2018. Furthermore, 36 markets have been developed along the Vietnam-Laos border, including eight border gate economic zones.
Private sector not keen on 400 baht minimum daily wage
(26 July 2019) Most employers in Thailand are opposed to the government’s proposal to raise the country’s minimum daily wage by 25-30% to 400-425 baht (US$13.0-13.8), the Board of Trade of Thailand shared on July 26, citing a survey by the Thai Chamber of Commerce (TCC). According to the survey, 93.9% of respondents surveyed by the TCC were against the proposed minimum daily wage increase as it would lead to higher operating costs. Furthermore, the raise from the current average of 325 baht (US$10.55) in major provinces is expected to cost businesses 21 billion baht (US$681.58 million) every year. A wage hike would also possibly affect national competitiveness as wages in Thailand are higher than in other Southeast Asian countries. As such, the trade board urged the government to let wage committees at the provincial level decide what the minimum wage should be based on labour skills and conditions in each province.
Cambodia now has 20.8 million mobile and 15.8 million internet users
(25 July 2019) Cambodia saw a substantial increase in mobile and internet users in the first half of 2019, according to the latest figures from the Telecommunications Regulator of Cambodia (TRC). According to the figures, the number of registered SIM cards rose 9.4% to reach 20.8 million users during the period, while the number of internet users — for both mobile and fixed internet — grew 31.6% to reach 15.8 million. According to the TRC, the increase in internet users was particularly significant since 15.8 million users would represent 98.5% of Cambodia’s population. There are currently six telecommunications firms in Cambodia — Cellcard, Smart Axiata, Metfone, Seatel, Cootel and qb — with Metfone, Cellcard and Smart Axiata accounting for 90% of all users.
Vietnamese garment makers to be tested by growing demand due to the EVFTA
(26 July 2019) Vietnam’s garment manufacturers are bracing themselves for the impending surge in demand once the EU-Vietnam Free Trade Agreement (EVFTA) kicks in. To quote an executive from a garment trading house in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnamese garments will soon “dominate the European market,” and he expects to receive at least 15% more orders for his uniforms and sportswear once the EVFTA is ratified by the European Parliament. However, manufacturers who are pushing to expand their operations in preparation for the surge in orders are already facing staff shortages, especially high-level employees with specialised skills. According to analysts, Vietnam’s garments industry, which currently accounts for around 10% of the country’s exports, will be the EVFTA’s biggest beneficiary.
About Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS)
The Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS) Economic Programme was launched by the Asian Development Bank in 1992 connecting five developing ASEAN countries, namely Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Vietnam and Thailand, and Chinese provinces of Yunnan and Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous region. The region has some of the most robust economies sharing the Mekong River Basin thanks to its reform and liberalisation. The subregion is growing at a faster pace than the whole of East Asia and the Asia Pacific as the GDP growth rate for 2017 was at 6.4 percent, according to the World Bank. The population at the subregion as of 2016 is at 340 million while the GDP at PPP is at US$3.1 trillion in 2016. In 2015, trading within the region was at US$444 billion.