VP U Myint Swe calls for stepping up fight against illegal border trade as it hinders economic growth

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VP U Myint Swe calls for stepping up fight against illegal border trade as it hinders economic growth

Vice President U Myint Swe, Chairman of the Illegal Trade Eradication Steering Committee attended and addressed a first coordination meeting of Illegal Trade Eradication Steering Committee held at Ministry of Commerce meeting hall in Nay Pyi Taw yesterday morning.

At the meeting Vice President U Myint Swe said the Illegal Trade Eradication Steering Committee was formed with the aim of increasing cooperation between union level departments on the matter of rising global illicit trade environment index due to illegal trade. The Office of the President formed the 39-member Illegal Trade Eradication Steering Committee on 25 June 2019 and assigned 13 tasks. The ministry responsible to implement the works of the committee was the Ministry of Commerce.

At this meeting all were to discuss and suggest on effective sector wise implementation of the 13 assigned tasks. The steering committee was to setup and establish policy, strategies, tactics, programs, short and long term work processes.

Based on each sectors relevant ministerial departments were to form work committees, sub-committees and special task forces and states and regions were to form illegal trade eradication committees to successfully implement the assigned tasks, effectively prevent illegal trade and change illegal trade to legal trade. In doing this cooperation of the people and private sector was very important. In addition to raising people’s knowledge and awareness on the danger of illegal trade, people were to participate and  cooperate in eradicating illegal trade, avoid supporting illegal trade and private sectors conducting legal trade were to be urged to expose incidences of illegal trade.

In the Global Illicit Trade Environment Index 2018 report published by the Economist Intelligence Unit, Myanmar stands at 82 among 84 countries and received 23 points only. The Global Illicit Trade Environment Index was measured by four indexes.

The four were government policy, supply and demand, transparent trade and work processes on customs.

Illegal trade was the main obstacle hindering Myanmar’s economic development. As long as the illegal trade sector remained strong, it would be a huge hindrance to legal businesses. Annual trade stands at US$ 29.209 billion in fiscal year 2016-2017, US$ 33.537 billion in fiscal year 2017-2018 and $ 26.223 billion in fiscal year 2018-2019 (October to June).

Looking at these annual figures maritime trade increased while border trade decreased. Decrease of border trade was found to be connected to the increase in illegal trade. Looking at border trade figures of Myanmar and Thailand in June 2019, there was a gap of more than $ 150 million indicating how big the amount of illegal border trade was. Furthermore illegal timber export effect the economy as well as damaging the environment. Fake products, especially medicines and liquors damages the economy as well as endangering the consumers.

Illegal imports through the border were threatening the existence of small and medium enterprises (SMEs).  Kachin State, Kayah State, Kayin State, Chin State, Sagaing Region, Taninthayi Region, Mon State, Rakhine State and Shan State were nine states and regions connected to border regions. Illegal trade control and prevention groups were formed in these nine regions and states and as of June 2019 there were 669 arrests were made with an estimated K 11.828 billion worth of illegal imports. As the Illegal Trade Eradication Steering Committee had been formed with ministers related to the economy from Nay Pyi Taw Council, states and regions, the nine illegal trade control and prevention groups formed would need to be reformed or reorganized.

Therefore in the day’s meeting discussions and suggestions were invited to reduce the rising global illicit trade environment index, on works to be implemented by union level, on works to be implemented by Nay Pyi Taw Council,  State/Region governments for completing the assigned 13 tasks to eradicate illegal trade. According to laws and procedures set by relevant departments coordination within departments were to be conducted in tandem and processes to be conducted were to be openly discussed and suggested, said the Vice President.

Next the Illegal Trade Eradication Steering Committee Vice Chairman Union Minister for  Planning and Finance U Soe Win explained about the status of opening Customs inspection stations and permanent inspection stations to prevent illegal trade, actions taken and arrests made, proceeds from the sale of confiscated illegal trade products, rewards given and works conducted to obtain tax income.

Afterwards Union Minister for Commerce Dr Than Myint explained about works conducted for trade sector development by Ministry of Commerce responsible to implement the works of VP U Myint Swe calls for stepping up fight against illegal border trade as it hinders economic growth the committee and effectively preventing illegal trade.

Steering Committee secretary Deputy Minister U Aung Htoo then explained about the general situation of illegal trade occurrence, responsibilities and works conducted by Mobile Teams and the works of the nine illegal trade control and prevention groups.

This was followed by Steering Committee member Permanent Secretary U  Aung Soe explaining about the duties and responsibilities of the steering committee, illegal trade and Illicit Trade Environment Index.

Finally other Steering Committee members explained about sector wise works of the 13 assigned tasks of the Steering Committee.

Then Vice President U Myint Swe gave advice and comments to ensure coordination based on the discussions and explanations made and the meeting. The meeting came to a close after a concluding speech by the Vice President.

The meeting was attended by the Illegal Trade Eradication Steering Committee Vice Chairman Union Minister for Planning and Finance U Soe Win, committee members Union Minister for Commerce Dr Than Myint, committee secretary Deputy Minister for Commerce U Aung Htoo, Nay Pyi Taw Council member, State/ Region ministers, Permanent Secretaries, Myanmar Police Force Chief, directors general, Union of Myanmar Federation of Chambers of Commerce and Industry (UMFCCI) President U Zaw Min Win and officials.