A brewing brouhaha over buses in Yangon?

The Yangon Regional Government has offered the Myanmar Licensed Contractors Association (MLCA) the right to buy 200 school buses and operate a business transporting schoolchildren, U Kyaw Win, chair of the association, said on October 7.

If accepted, the move will involve establishing a separate entity to run the operation under a public-private-partnership (PPP). It will also invite the participation of existing school bus owners, U Kyaw Win said

“We told the government frankly that we didn’t have experience running this type of business when they offered it to us three months ago, and there were already existing school bus operators. We were worried that bus owners would think that we are taking away their business. They, on the other hand, are worried about what they should do when the PPP starts operating and how it would affect their livelihoods.

“In reality, we want to cooperate with existing school bus owners and we invited to them to talks,” said U Kyaw Win, who is also the owner of Shwe Than Lwin Group of Companies.

Some school bus operators said they want their businesses to continue unchanged and that the services they provide should be run by people who have experience. “We don’t want to be manipulated by others who don’t know the business. We, individual owners, can provide a needed service if left unhindered,” said Daw Htay Htay, who services BEHS 1 in Dagon Township.

“Whatever the case, we need to prepare to form the PPP. We will not exclude current school bus owners from the market. That’s why we invited school buses owners to discuss buying shares in the PPP company. We are looking at between K5000 and K10,000 for one share. But it’s also ok if they do not wish to participate,” said U Ba Nyar Zaw, director of strategic and planning for MLCA.

New system

MLCA will register the new entity with the Directorate of Investment and Company Administration and could sign an agreement with the government soon. If talks with the government proceed smoothly, the new company will start managing school buses in November.

The new entity is expected to take over an existing school bus system put in place on June 1, under which school buses were run by the Yangon Regional Government. The government’s goal for managing the school buses was to reduce traffic congestion.

To set up the new school bus system, the government bought 200 school buses from South Korea under a government-to-government deal financed by a loan from KBZ Bank.

Meanwhile, the government also met with 22 schools in Yangon, out of which 18 agreed to use the school buses run by the government.

“However, in reality, only two schools – TTC Yankin and Kamaryut – were utilising 65 buses out of the 200. We want to know how the government will fully utilise the other buses,” said U Kyi Win, a school bus owner who serves BEHS (2) in Bahan Township.

According to Cocokyun Township MP U Tin Win, many of the buses are unused and parked at a compound near Parliament “where they will deteriorate in the long term,” he said.

Daw Nilar Kyaw, Yangon minister of electricity, industry, transportation and telecommunication, said that the government is aiming to use more of the buses to serve more schools by next year.

Financing the agreement

Under a PPP agreement, the MLCA will assume the K5.5 billion KBZ loan for the 200 buses, which were previously bought by MaHtaTha, the old supervisory committee for vehicles under the former government. The buses were subsequently transferred to the Yangon Region Transport Authority.

According to the Yangon Region Auditor General’s Office for the 2016-17 fiscal year, the Yangon government did not seek parliamentary approval for the loan.

In addition, another K5.5 billion was received from the Golden Hand Company, which the government had chosen to operate and manage the school buses, according to Dagon Township MP U Kyaw Zaya. However, that company has since ceased operations.

“As far as I know, the Golden Hand Co contributed K5.5 billion for the project, but the Joint Public Accounts Committee reported that the government also borrowed additional money from KBZ Bank for the project,” said U Tin Win.

SOURCE: MYANMAR TIMES

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