Yangon to Boost Revenue by Taxing for-Profit Pandals

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Despite a government ban on for-profit pandals in public areas, the Yangon Region government will allow them in private areas during Thingyan, or water festival, according to Yangon Chief Minister U Phyo Min Thein on March 24.

“We’ve received applications to hold entertainment pandals at The One Entertainment [in Thuwunna township], People’s park and Shwe Htun Tin yard. We will make the arrangements [for them] systematically…” said U Phyo Min Thein.

Pandals are fabricated structures erected for religious gatherings and events.

Last year, shortly after taking office, the National League for Democracy-backed Yangon government decided to place a significant dampener on water festival by banning for-profit pandals. Officials said the decision was taken due to concerns over water use, crime and growing commercialisation of the New Year festival.

Licences were only issued to businesses or individuals to erect pandals in front of land that they own, and the government did not allow pandals to be constructed at Pyay road, Kaba Aye Pagoda road and around the Kandawgyi Park. However, family-owned pandals and pandals sponsored by organisations were permitted to take place.

This year, the government will allow pandals to be built in private areas and the for-profit pandals will be taxed, said Kayin ethnic affairs minister Daw Naw Pan Thinzar Myo on March 23.

“‘There are two types [of circumstances] under which we will authorise the commercial pandals to be staged, and businesses and the media should be well informed on this matter.

“We have approved commercial pandals to be held, similar to last year’s arrangements. People want to have commercial water pandals in private areas, and we will allow some of those to take place. But we will not permit pandals … in public areas,” she explained.

But the government will collect taxes from for-profit pandals which will be in private areas. The administration will also establish rules to regulate the taxation and operations of the pandals.

“For example, owners renting their land out for commercial pandals will receive rental revenue and that will have income tax attached … In addition, participants of the pandals must purchase stamped tickets.

“Under these circumstances, we will issue building permits for commercial pandals in private areas,” said Daw Naw Pan Thinzar Myo.

Last year, the government prohibited for-profit pandals in most public areas but this year the restriction will be relaxed, in an attempt to boost revenue for the administration.

“We will approve the construction of some pandals after our own analysis, depending on the environment, the roads and the situation of the infrastructure of individual pandals,” she added.

In last year’s festival, no one applied for for-profit pandals in private areas and hence there was no tax revenue.

Since last year, the government has already granted the building of pandals separately in four Yangon districts. But the government has prohibited pandals along heavily congested roads such Pyay road, Kabaraye Pagoda road and roads surrounding Kandawgyi Park where many for-profit pandals were built for water festivals in preceding years. This restriction is in line with last year’s.

The Chief Minister has agreed to authorise commercial pandals to be built at Maida grounds this year.

In late February, Yangon Mayor U Maung Maung Soe told The Myanmar Times that “I think commercial pandals can be built at the Maida grounds and people can go there if they can pay a lot of money. But we haven’t decided on that yet.”
“We will allow building pandals in four districts, similar to the arrangement of the festival last year … But at the time we didn’t know how many pandals we had already permitted to be built,” said Daw Naw Pan Thinzar Myo.

According to U Phyo Min Thein, there will be six large pandals and one medium-sized pandal which are to be built.

There will be an age restriction for those who want to take part in the entertainment pandals held in private areas. People under the age of 18 will not be allowed.

Drugs and alcohol will also be prohibited and the prohibition will be strictly enforced. Organisers were also advised to arrange security measures for participants.

Elsewhere in the country, local authorities have given new directives to regulate and streamline the construction of pandals. In Mandalay, for example, the number of permits for the construction of pandals around the Mandalay moat will be reduced this year ahead of the Thingyan festival, according to the Mandalay City Development Committee (MCDC).

The control of the number of pandals is to ensure that those gathering around the popular Mandalay moat to celebrate Thingyan will not be hindered in the festivities. Mandalay also hopes to boost revenue by using an auction system to issue pandal permits this year.

 

The Myanmar Times
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