Mekong Monitor: Border trade in Vietnam and Myanmar affected by dwindling border crossings
Photo credit: Reuters
TRADE, ECONOMY, AND INVESTMENT
Border trade in Vietnam and Myanmar affected by dwindling border crossings
(29 January 2020) Border towns in Myanmar and Vietnam dependent on cross-border trade and tourism with China have started to be affected by the recent coronavirus outbreak in Wuhan. A border official at the Lao Cai border crossing stated that permissions for Chinese tourists to cross were suspended effective 27 January 2020. The Mong Cai border crossing in Quang Ninh Province only saw 3,379 Chinese tourists cross during the Lunar New Year, down by 38% from the same period in 2019. Quang Ninh province as a whole just saw 6,700 Chinese tourists arrive during the holidays, compared to the 45,000 tourists over the same period last year. In Myanmar, it was reported that border crossings to China had declined significantly since the confirmation of coronavirus cases in Yunnan.
Myanmar received over 4.36 million foreign visitors in 2019
(29 January 2020) Myanmar received over 4.36 million foreign visitors in 2019, an increase of 23% compared to the previous year, according to the Ministry of Hotels and Tourism. The ministry also recently announced granting visa-on-arrivals to ordinary passport holders from certain countries for a three-year probation period lasting until 31 December 2022. These countries included Austria, Hungary, and New Zealand. In addition, visa-exemption days were extended to 30 days for Vietnamese tourists in Myanmar starting from 1 January 2020.
Singaporean sovereign wealth fund to buy 20% stake in Myanmar’s Yoma Bank
(29 January 2020) Singapore’s sovereign wealth fund GIC Pte intends to buy 20% of Myanmar’s Yoma Bank Ltd for US$88.7 million. The Yoma Bank chief executive officer stated that the bank will benefit from the experience GIC can bring. Yoma Bank was founded by local tycoon Serge Pun in 1993 and is one of Myanmar’s largest lenders, with 80 branches in the country. Its existing shareholders include the World Bank’s investment arm International Finance Corp (IFC). Myanmar’s banking sector opened to foreign investors in January 2019, attracting foreign investors interested in serving the country’s large underbanked population.
Thai stocks drop most since 2016 after China bans outbound group tours
(30 January 2020) Thai stocks have dipped the most since 2016 on fears of economic turbulence after China banned outbound group tours in light of the coronavirus outbreak. The SET index slid 2.9%, with tourism-related shares among those bearing the brunt of the drop. The baht also weakened in line with emerging-market currencies over concerns of a fallout from the virus. In 2019, Chinese nationals spent almost US$18 billion in Thailand, composing around a quarter of all foreign tourism receipts. As of 26 January, Thailand has confirmed eight cases, with five already discharged.
Thailand ranked sixth destination where Chinese tourists prefer to use mobile payments
(29 January 2020) Thailand ranked sixth out of top 10 countries where Chinese tourists prefer to use mobile payments, according to a recent report by Nielsen and Alipay. The report surveyed 4,837 Chinese travellers, and found Southeast Asia was the leader in mobile payment usage by Chinese tourists. Singapore ranked number one, with 77% of Chinese tourists in Singapore using mobile payments for transactions. The total amount spent by Chinese tourists increased by 14% in Singapore and Thailand between 2018 and 2019.
About Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS)
The Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS) Economic Programme was launched by the Asian Development Bank in 1992 connecting five developing ASEAN countries, namely Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Vietnam and Thailand, and Chinese provinces of Yunnan and Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous region. The region has some of the most robust economies sharing the Mekong River Basin thanks to its reform and liberalisation. The subregion is growing at a faster pace than the whole of East Asia and the Asia Pacific as the GDP growth rate for 2017 was at 6.4 percent, according to the World Bank. The population at the subregion as of 2016 is at 340 million while the GDP at PPP is at US$3.1 trillion in 2016. In 2015, trading within the region was at US$444 billion.