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Posted by on in Business
Dethroned Myanmar beauty queen seeks organiser's apology
 
YANGON: A Myanmar beauty queen dethroned for alleged misconduct said Tuesday she would only return her crown if South Korean pageant organisers apologised - and denied accepting free breast implants.

May Myat Noe, 16, was training to become a K-pop star in South Korea after winning the Seoul-based Miss Asia Pacific World beauty pageant in May.

But last week the organisers stripped her of the title for alleged dishonesty, accusing her of absconding with the crown and the $10,000 implants, which they say they funded to enhance her budding singing career.

On Tuesday the beauty queen hit back and demanded an apology from the organisers.

"It is natural for me to feel that an apology should be demanded to rectify the damage they have done to the integrity of my country," she told a packed press conference in Yangon.

"I will return the crown only when they apologise to Myanmar, for the dignity of our country."

May Myat Noe also denied accepting free breast implants.

"I was put under duress to undergo head-to-toe cosmetic surgery which I refused... I didn't have breast implants, but I don't want to go into details, to preserve my dignity," she said.

Her comments appear to have deepened the acrimony between pageant organisers and their former queen.

Young Choi, founder of Miss Asia Pacific World, told AFP the organisers had photographic evidence of the breast implant operation and that they would consider legal action against May Myat Noe.

"She has been lying. She also lied at today's news conference. She must return the crown," he said, declining to give the cost of the tiara but explaining it was made over several weeks by ten specialists.

"It's not for us but for her to apologise. She has been hurting our image and credibility," he said in Seoul.

Choi said his organisation hoped to handle the sensitive matter "quietly in consideration of relations between South Korea and Myanmar" but was ready to consider a lawsuit "if she refuses to cooperate."

Myanmar women are eyeing success in international beauty pageants as the country opens up after decades of military rule.

Despite undergoing sweeping political and social reforms, Myanmar remains a deeply conservative nation.

But new fashions and overseas products are creeping into the once cloistered nation, supported by a proliferation of magazines for young consumers and an increasingly vibrant pop culture.

Last year a US-educated business graduate was selected as the first Miss Universe contestant to represent Myanmar in more than 50 years.

May Myat Noe is the latest in a growing list of beauty queens from Southeast Asia to run into trouble.

In June Thailand's contender for the Miss Universe pageant relinquished her crown after she allegedly called for supporters of the ousted government to be "executed", sparking a barrage of online criticism. - AFP

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Myanmar city U-turns amid outcry over secret $8 billion housing deal

Reuters, 02/09 09:51 CET

By Aung Hla Tun

YANGON (Reuters) – Authorities in Myanmar’s biggest city have backed down on plans to award a $8 billion (4.81 billion pounds) construction contract to a barely known firm following a public outcry over its transparency in a country notorious for graft and vested interests.

The Yangon region government said on Thursday an open tender would be held for a huge low-cost housing project, one of the biggest of its kind in Myanmar, just days after the city’s mayor stunned lawmakers by announcing a deal had been struck in secret with a firm set up only nine months ago.

“We were all caught by surprise when we heard this,” Yangon region lawmaker Nyo Nyo Thinn told Reuters.

“We later realised that they had been carrying out this project secretly without the knowledge of parliament, and were far from seeking approval.”

It was unclear what prompted the decision to open up bidding or if the central government was involved, or even aware of the initial deal with Myanmar Say Ta Nar Myothit Public Co. Ltd., which was registered as a business in December last year and unheard of until Mayor Hla Myint’s announcement.

The government of reformist president and former general Thein Sein has vowed to fight graft and promote transparency to lure foreign investment and help address urgent employment and infrastructure needs. Many Western firms, however, remain hesitant about making big commitments.

Under the military’s 1962-2011 rule, business deals and concessions related to energy, infrastructure, land and mining were often extremely opaque, awarded without tenders to cronies of the generals whose kleptocracy deterred competition.

The project, covering three townships in the west of Yangon, seeks to address a shortage of affordable accommodation in a city expected to swell far beyond its six million residents as business and tourism grows, construction booms and investors arrive from Thailand, Singapore, India and Japan.

It aims to provide 20,000 low-cost housing units, five bridges to connect the area to the rest of Yangon, a school and a home for the elderly.

“We just can’t understand who is behind this and why they did it secretly,” said a minister with the Yangon region government, who declined to be identified.

News group Eleven Media lashed out at the project last week in several of its publications and posted an article on its English-language website headlined: “Do you think the entire nation stupid?”

Eleven cited public concern over the secrecy of the plan and lack of information about Myanmar Say Ta Nar Myothit, including the identity of its owner.

(Writing by Paul Mooney; Editing by Martin Petty and Jeremy Laurence)

euronews provides breaking news articles from Reuters as a service to its readers, but does not edit the articles it publishes.

 

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Posted by on in Business

Myanmar city backs down on housing deal

YANGON:  Authorities in Myanmar’s biggest city have backed down on plans to award a $8bn construction contract to a barely known firm following a public outcry over its transparency in a country notorious for graft and vested interests.

The Yangon region government said on Thursday an open tender would be held for a huge low-cost housing project, one of the biggest of its kind in Myanmar, just days after the city’s mayor stunned lawmakers by announcing a deal had been struck in secret with a firm set up only nine months ago.

“We were all caught by surprise when we heard this,” Yangon region lawmaker Nyo Nyo Thinn said.

“We later realised that they had been carrying out this project secretly without the knowledge of parliament, and were far from seeking approval.”

It was unclear what prompted the decision to open up bidding or if the central government was involved, or even aware of the initial deal with Myanmar Say Ta Nar Myothit Public Co Ltd, which was registered as a business in December last year and unheard of until Mayor Hla Myint’s announcement.

The government of reformist president and former general Thein Sein has vowed to fight graft and promote transparency to lure foreign investment and help address urgent employment and infrastructure needs.

 Many Western firms, however, remain hesitant about making big commitments.

Under the military’s 1962-2011 rule, business deals and concessions related to energy, infrastructure, land and mining were often extremely opaque, awarded without tenders to cronies of the generals whose kleptocracy deterred competition.

The project, covering three townships in the west of Yangon, seeks to address a shortage of affordable accommodation in a city expected to swell far beyond its six million residents as business and tourism grows, construction booms and investors arrive from Thailand, Singapore, India and Japan.

It aims to provide 20,000 low-cost housing units, five bridges to connect the area to the rest of Yangon, a school and a home for the elderly.

“We just can’t understand who is behind this and why they did it secretly,” said a minister with the Yangon region government, who requested to remain anonymous.

News group Eleven Media lashed out at the project last week in several of its publications and posted an article on its English-language website headlined: “Do you think the entire nation stupid?”

Eleven cited public concern over the secrecy of the plan and lack of information about Myanmar Say Ta Nar Myothit, including the identity of its owner.

Reuters

 

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Posted by on in Business

US firms prefer Indonesia, VN and Myanmar


Brunei and Laos hold the least interest for respondents in the survey.

The "Asean Business Survey Outlook 2015", carried out by the American Chamber of Commerce (AmCham) Singapore and the US Chamber of Commerce, revealed dissatisfaction with Thailand, the third-most-attractive destination in Asean in the previous year's survey.

"Respondents see personal security, positive sentiments towards the US, housing costs, and infrastructure as major strengths in Thailand. The lack of a stable government and political system and corruption are cited as the biggest challenges with 80 per cent and 71 per cent of respondents, respectively, indicating dissatisfaction. Increasing labour costs have also led to a 26-percentage-point decrease in satisfaction with the availability of low-cost labour since 2009," the survey said.

Following is the survey on other nine Asean countries.

Cambodia

Major strengths cited by respondents in Cambodia include availability of low-cost labour and positive sentiment towards the US. Corruption remains a problem, as 82 per cent of respondents expressed concern, up from 65 per cent last year.

Indonesia

Indonesia was rated as the top destination in Asean for expansion, despite the many challenges companies cite in doing business there. Overwhelmingly, insufficient infrastructure was identified as the greatest drawback. Other significant challenges include corruption, finding trained personnel, moving products through customs, and problematic laws and regulations. Satisfaction with personal security in Indonesia has increased by 24 percentage points since 2009.

Malaysia

Sentiment towards the US, the quality of infrastructure, and reasonable office lease costs are significant strengths for Malaysia and the country enjoys moderate strengths across many business factors. In contrast, corruption and personal security remain challenges. Additionally, Malaysia continues to battle with the pitfalls of the middle-income trap relative to the rapid growth potential of its Asean neighbours. As Malaysia moves up the value chain, the satisfaction level with the availability of trained personnel, infrastructure, and office lease costs have significantly decreased.

Myanmar

Myanmar is one of the most popular countries for business expansion in Asean, offering a ready supply of affordable labour, personal security, and positive sentiments toward the US. In addition, US companies are viewed more favourably in Myanmar than in any other Asean country. However, the US business leaders currently operating in Myanmar cite 11 out of the 16 business factors in the survey as challenges. The highest levels of dissatisfaction are with the cost of housing, infrastructure, lack of trained labour, and office lease costs.

Philippines

Satisfaction in the Philippines increased across nine of the 16 business factors over the last five years, led by a 23-percentage-point increase in satisfaction with the stability of the government and political system. A total of 86 per cent of respondents are satisfied with the positive sentiments towards the US and 78 per cent with the availability of trained personnel in the Philippines, each representing the highest percentage in Asean. Insufficient infrastructure, corruption, the difficulty of moving products through customs, and the tax structure remain challenges in the country.

Singapore

Singapore-based respondents cite greater satisfaction across polled business factors than any other Asean country. Major strengths in Singapore include personal security, a stable government and political system, infrastructure, and a lack of corruption.

Vietnam

Vietnam is the second-most-listed location for business expansion in Asean. Its strengths include positive sentiments towards the US, the availability of low-cost labour, and the level of personal security. Respondents indicate that corruption is one of the biggest problems in Vietnam, with 69 per cent of respondents indicating dissatisfaction.

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US firms prefer Indonesia, Vietnam, Myanmar, survey shows
 
The Asean Business Survey Outlook 2015, carried out by the American Chamber of Commerce (AmCham) Singapore and the US Chamber of Commerce, revealed that Indonesia, Vietnam and Myanmar remained the priority markets for future US business investments.

Brunei and Laos hold the least interest for respondents in the survey.

Indonesia managed to retain the top rank as it got the votes of 41 per cent of the respondents. This was, however, down from the 49 per cent it got in last year's survey.

Respondents identified insufficient infrastructure as the greatest hindrance to investments and trade. Last year’s main concern was corruption.

The survey, the data collection for which was made between May 5 and June 5, did cite corruption as a major barrier followed by uncertainty in bylaws and regulations, and a lack of new business incentives.

Other concerns related to the availability of trained personnel, the movement of goods through customs and local protectionism.

AmCham Indonesia managing director Andrew White said Indonesia should continue to play on its strengths to attract US investors; its large market, strategic location, low labour costs and upwardly mobile and young demographics.

However, White warned against the current and prevalent regulatory uncertainty. "There's so much uncertainty, such as the lack of stakeholder consultation before big policy decisions are made, or the conflict among the ministries [in resolving overlapping regulations]," White told The Jakarta Post on Friday.

The AmCham survey shows that respondents are dissatisfied with certain Indonesian government institutions, particularly customs, immigration and taxation.

The three agencies scored a 62 per cent, 43 per cent and 40 per cent dissatisfaction rate, respectively. Last year, the survey revealed a dissatisfaction rate of 57 per cent for customs, while the rating for immigration and taxation were the same as this year.

White also cited a lack of basic infrastructure and limited access to skilled labour as the other main roadblocks that US companies had to cope with while doing business in the country.

Fortunately, he said, US businesses were optimistic that the next Indonesian government — due to be sworn in on Oct. 20 — would be able to improve on the country's business climate.

"US companies are prepared to continue to invest in Indonesia, because there are signs that the new government will take on these three issues [of regulation, infrastructure and labour]," White explained.

A study jointly conducted by AmCham Indonesia, the US Chamber of Commerce and USAID last year revealed that US firms poured in a total of US$65 billion between 2004 and 2012, making them the biggest foreign investors in the archipelago.

Official data based on inflows of funds recorded by Bank Indonesia (BI) shows that US foreign direct investment (FDI) settled at only $7 billion during the eight-year period, placing the country as the fourth-biggest investor in Indonesia.

The US Chamber of Commerce is the world's largest business federation representing the interests of more than 3 million businesses of all sizes, and in all sectors, and regions, as well as state and local chambers and industry associations.

Indonesian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (Kadin) chairman Suryo Bambang Sulisto acknowledged that Indonesia had to work on its infrastructure and energy sectors despite the sustained interest from investors due to the country's large market.

Suryo listed the export of heavy machinery, oil exploration and consumer goods as the main sectors into which US investors were looking.

"Indonesia offers the greatest potential for investment, a wealth of opportunities," he said, adding that the Americans were keen on taking part in construction-based projects again after a period of absence.

Suryo said that investments were continuously flowing in, despite a slight decrease due to the election year. He believed that US businesses would become more upbeat about the country following the conclusion of the presidential election.

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Tuesday, September 02, 2014
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