Industry lobbies for gold and diamond trade to be legalised

Industry bodies have asked the government to strike gold and diamonds from its list of restricted goods, saying it would boost government earnings and help to combat smuggling.

The Myanmar Gold Entrepreneurs Association has filed a proposal with the Ministry of Commerce to lift restrictions. At present, gold and diamonds can only be traded overseas illegally, resulting in substantial losses to the country’s tax revenues, industry sources said.

Entrepreneurs are planning to open the country’s first gold and metal trading exchange in Yangon over the next few months, which will help local traders to do business with the global market.

The industry has been hoping for trade to be legalised since 2011 when economic and political reforms first began, a spokesperson for Myanmar Gold Development Public Company said.

“Since the country opened its doors, we have been hoping for trade to become official. We asked the ministry to remove the two items from the restricted goods list, and we expect it will do so when the gold and metal market opens,” he said.

“We have made an agreement in preliminary meetings that this will happen.”

Once gold can be legally traded, the government will be able to increase imports when the country needs them, or to ramp up exports when the country has surplus gold, to bring in more foreign currency, he said.

The new gold and metal market will use a modern electronic system linked with the country’s banking system, and is being set up by the Myanmar Federation of Mining Association and three ministries.

The President’s Office has already granted permission for the new market, and the Ministry of Commerce is responsible for relaxing regulations that would allow gold to be exported through the new exchange.

U Maung Aung, adviser to the commerce ministry, said legalising the trade is not a decision for the ministry alone. “We need recommendations from everyone,” he said. “The trade should be legalised if we can also make finished products. Perhaps it will happen in the next government term.”

Gold and diamonds are mostly smuggled into and out of the country across the border points at Muse in Shan State, across from Yunnan province in China, and Myawady in Kayin State, which borders with Thailand. They are smuggled into the country when prices in Yangon are high and smuggled out when prices are low.

Diamonds are not mined within Myanmar – they are typically brought into the country from India, said U Myo Myint, chair of the Yangon Region Gold Entrepreneurs Association. He said it would be hugely beneficial for the country if the government legalised gold and diamond trading.

An executive member from the Myanmar Gold Entrepreneurs Association agreed. “If the ministry allows us to trade officially, diamonds and gold will become widely available in the country, and the government will be able to earn more in income tax,” he said.

Source: Myanmar Times

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