Yangon chief minister to cut bridge tolls

 

The new chief minister for Yangon Region plans to reduce tolls at a major bridge linking the city’s largest industrial zones to its downtown area and ports, in a move that would make exports more competitive.

U Phyo Min Thein said he will discuss the toll rate with the Union government.

Bayintnaung Bridge connects Yangon to Hlaing Tharyar Township, home to the majority of factories in the commercial capital.

The bridge is run by Asia World Group, according to local businesspeople. The company announced earlier this year that it had sold its toll road businesses, but did not name a buyer, and did not respond to requests for comment yesterday.

Toll fees are between K50, 000 and K70, 000 for each container, adding to logistics costs for companies already operating on tight profit margins.

Myanmar was rated 145 out of 160 countries in the World Bank’s 2014 Logistics Performance Index – the lowest score in Asia.

“According to entrepreneurs, this bridge is one reason why transportation costs for businesses in Yangon are so high. Merchants and industries are losing their competitive edge, and commodity prices for consumers are inflated,” U Phyo Min Thein said.

The regional government will speak to the company, to find out how much it has invested into the bridge and how much of that capital has been recovered, before determining a new rate, he added.

“We will also ask how much the company paid the state for the right to operate the bridge. For some tenders the state has received nothing, and these people are charging up to K100, 000 per container,” he said.

“This affects our national production. The tender may have been awarded to someone who knew the [former Yangon chief] minister. We must change this kind of situation.”

The cost of sending a 20-foot- equivalent unit container from Yangon to Singapore is not much higher than transporting it across Bayintnaung Bridge, he added.

U Win Naing, chair of the Bayintnaung Commodity Exchange Centre, agreed the rate is far too high. “The new government should adjust it,” he said.

Over 200,000 workers are employed by factories in Hlaing Tharyar’s seven major industrial zones, which together produce 70 percent of Myanmar’s manufactured goods for export, said U Ohn Saing, deputy chair of the management committee.

Other zones such as Shwe Than Lwin, Ngwe Pin Lae, Mya Sein Yaung and Shwe Lin Pan are also located in the township.

“Entrepreneurs who set up factories across the Hlaing River are struggling to pay the toll fees. The minister should assess the situation and make a decision quickly. Beans packaged in Hlaing Tharyar cost K50, 000 more per tonne than those manufactured elsewhere,” said U Ohn Saing.

Two bridges connect the industrial area to Yangon’s Mayangone Township. The first was built in the 1990s and cannot support container trucks. As congestion grew worse along the original road, the Ministry of Construction contracted a second bridge in 2012.

Since then Hlaing Tharyar’s population has boomed to more than 700,000 – making it by far the largest of the country’s 330 townships.

Source: The Myanmar Times

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