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Building-Markets-logoBuilding Markets, a New York-based NGO, has opened a Yangon branch with the aim of connecting locally owned businesses with resources and training.

"Being here early is essential for us because we focus on building market fundamentals and capacities,” said Emmanuel Maillard, project manager at Building Market's Yangon office. “We anticipate and prepare for the arrival of international buyers, including INGOs, multilateral and bilateral development organizations and private investors."

The organization said it will hold bi-monthly training sessions in Yangon with a view to maximizing opportunities for local business people, and will also compile a tender database, which will be searchable by Myanmar companies. 

"The local market is not organized and is still very small,” said Moung Kee Aung, the Building Market's business matchmaking manager. “Finding goods or services that are cheap and high quality is not that easy. This is why we help organizations reach and connect with more local suppliers."

Building Markets currently has operations across five countries and says it has to date successfully re-directed more than US$1.2 billion into local economies. 

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The Hledan overpass across Pyay Road, Yangon opened for traffic on April 10, 2013. [Photo Bo Bo / Mizzima]
Myanmar's largest city is on track to become a “mega city” by 2040, according to speakers at the Urban Development Conference in Yangon's Traders Hotel on May 6.

“The role of urban development cannot be neglected,” said Kyaw Lwin, the Minister for Construction, who noted that, as latecomers to modernization in the region, Myanmar “is eager to learn from the good and bad experiences of other countries.”

At the core of the Greater Yangon Strategic Development Plan, which has been partly funded in coordination with the Japan International Cooperation Agency, is an outer green belt with sub-centers in a 10-15 km radius around the city; the construction of special economic zones, such as Thilawa; the new international Hanthawaddy Airport; and, numerous affordable housing projects.

Two of the low-cost residential units—the Ayeyarwun and Yadanar Housing Projects—are currently under construction. These complexes are to be built through a combination of both public and private sector funds and be used as showcases for the rest of the country, said Toe Aung, deputy head of the city planning and land administration department.

“Yangon's natural resources and strategic location are not enough,” said Min Gin, the director of the Ministry of Construction, who emphasized the urgent need to develop infrastructure and train government staff for the challenges ahead.

The urbanization rate in Myanmar is currently 2.9 percent with a low urban population of three out of 10 people compared with the global average of seven out of 10.

“The flow of people from the rest of the country to these parts will be tremendous if these city plans go ahead,” said Ismael Fernandez Mejia, president of the International Society of City and Regional Planners in a keynote speech at the event.

He recommended the preservation and renovation of Yangon's old structures to save the aesthetics of the city; the creation of more open spaces; and opening up Yangon River to the city—it is currently blocked off by shipping facilities and the port.

Min Gin said that the government wanted to ensure that the entire country was not reliant on Yangon. A National Comprehensive Development Plan is currently being devised alongside the Yangon plan, which will take national, local and regional development into consideration.

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Participating at the 46th Annual Meeting of the Board of Governors of the ADB in Greater Noida, India, on May 4 (left to right): Nisha Taneja, Professor, ICRIER; Kan Zaw, Minister of National Planning and Economic Development, Myanmar; ADB Managing Director Rajat Nag; Hiroshi Watanabe, CEO, Executive Managing Director, Japan Bank for International Cooperation; and ADB Institute Dean Masahiro Kawai. Photo: ADB via Flickr
Representatives of the Asian Development Bank (ADB) and International Monetary Fund (IMF) on Saturday lauded the Myanmar government and encouraged it to continue its economic reforms, according to China’s Xinhua News Agency.

Various positive statements were made by delegates at a seminar on Myanmar held on the sidelines of the 46th Annual Meeting of the Board of Governors of the ADB in Greater Noida, India, on May 4.

ADB and IMF officials are reported as saying that Myanmar is on the right track to build its own economic and financial institutions for future development.

Stephen Groff, vice president of ADB, also cautioned that the country must have an "expectation management" for its people, as things will not change overnight but take time to move forward, Xinhua said. He added that Naypyitaw should inform its people that the country's reforms will bring returns in the future.

Groff reportedly called for efforts to encourage the private sector to join Myanmar's construction process, while stressing the importance of inclusive economic growth for solving the prominent issues faced by the country, such as poverty and underdevelopment.

Minister of Finance and Revenue Win Shein and Deputy Director-General of the Central Bank of Myanmar Yin Yin Mya were among the Myanmar speakers at the forum.

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A section of Dalah port in Yangon. Photo: Mizzima 
Myanma Port Authority announced on Monday that it will build 14 more jetties at Yangon Port in addition to the 18 existing ones, a move that will effectively double freight handling, the state-run New Light of Myanmar reported on Monday.

Union Minister for Transport Nyan Tun Aung said that seven of the 14 are to be built through joint venture and foreign aid.

Calling for freight handling to be improved to meet international standards, Nyan Tun Aung said that Myanmar would become a crucial location in Southeast Asian shipping once Dawei and Kyaukphyu deep sea-ports come into operation. He noted that Yangon Jetty currently handles 85 percent of exports and imports for the whole country.

Meanwhile, according to China’s state-run Xinhua News Agency, Myanmar authorities have recently privatized one of the main jetties at Yangon Port by selling it to military-owned Myanmar Economic Holdings Ltd for a price of over 30 billion kyat (US$35 million).

The privatized Bo Aung Kyaw Jetty, covering an area of over 4. 73 hectares, is one of five main jetties at the port which handles containers, edible oil and general cargo, the report said.

Xinhua reported on Monday that Yangon port authorities had also invited tenders to upgrade Yangon Port to meet international standards, and that a private firm named Pearl Land had been awarded the contract on a 15-year lease.

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Ajay-Chhibber-sThe UN Development Programme will give money under a three-year action plan.