Myan­mar shop­pers ex­change kyat over­seas

The Myanmar Times - - Business - THU THU AUNG thuthuaung@mm­

WHEN it comes to spend­ing money abroad Myan­mar tourists have an in­creas­ing ar­ray of op­tions. Lo­cal banks are com­pet­ing to of­fer in­ter­na­tional credit cards, and hol­i­day shop­pers in Bangkok have now found they are able to swap kyat for baht at li­censed Thai cur­rency ex­changes.

Myan­mar vis­i­tors to Thai­land pre­vi­ously had to rely on buy­ing US dol­lars in ad­vance to ex­change for baht, trad­ing kyat with Thai black mar­ket deal­ers or us­ing a for­eign bank card. Ma Than­dar, an on­line cloth­ing re­tailer from Yan­gon who regularly trav­els to Bangkok for shop­ping, was forced to deal with black mar­ket traders af­ter run­ning out of baht.

But things are chang­ing. On a re­cent trip Ma Than­dar found that li­censed Thai ex­change firm – Su­perRich – offers kyat ex­change. “I was sur­prised when I saw the Myan­mar kyat ex­change rate on the board of the Su­perRich ex­change cen­tre,” she said. “It’s so con­ve­nient.”

Ma Win Myat Mon, a Myan­mar fash­ion re­tailer, chooses to rely on a visa card for Bangkok shop­ping jaunts. “I’d never bring Myan­mar kyat be­cause I knew it was a non-con­vert­ible cur­rency,” she said.

She was happy to learn that of­fi­cial Thai cur­rency ex­changes were be­gin­ning to deal in kyat, hav­ing pre­vi­ously had to deal with black mar­ket traders near the Myan­mar em­bassy.

Myan­mar only adopted a man­aged float­ing ex­change rate in 2012, and the kyat re­mains a highly volatile cur­rency. In 2015, the kyat lost over 25 per­cent of its value, and volatil­ity in the US-kyat ex­change rate ear­lier this year prompted Myan­mar len­ders to tem­po­rar­ily close their cur­rency desks.

The volatil­ity has not dis­suaded Su­perRich, how­ever, which “sees a wave of trav­ellers ven­tur­ing to Myan­mar af­ter the his­toric gen­eral elec­tion in 2015”, ac­cord­ing to a com­pany spokesper­son.

“There will be an in­creased de­mand for kyat in the fu­ture and we want to make it avail­able for our clients,” the spokesper­son told The Myan­mar Times, ad­ding that the firm had started ex­chang­ing kyat early this year.

While Su­perRich an­tic­i­pates more tourists trav­el­ling to Myan­mar, of­fi­cials at Myan­mar banks said that there will also be a wave of tourists from Myan­mar vis­it­ing neighour­ing coun­tries.

“Lots of Myan­mar peo­ple visit Thai­land,” said U Soe Thein, deputy man­ag­ing di­rec­tor of Asian Green De­vel­op­ment Bank. “Kyat cur­rency ex­change is go­ing to be a big mar­ket.”

Myan­mar, Thai­land, Viet­nam and Laos dis­cussed the in­tro­duc­tion of a single visa that would per­mit travel to all of them at a meet­ing in June. The fol­low­ing month labour min­is­ters from Thai­land and Myan­mar dis­cussed an agree­ment that would make it eas­ier for Myan­mar work­ers to en­ter Thai labour mar­kets.

Lo­cal banks are al­ready cater­ing to cus­tomers look­ing to spend money abroad. AYA Bank, CB Bank and Myan­mar Ori­en­tal Bank are among those that have re­cently started of­fer­ing credit cards linked to the UnionPay JCB and global pay­ment net­works. JCB’s net­work al­lows Myan­mar card hold­ers to use their bank ac­counts in 191 coun­tries and ter­ri­to­ries.

‘I’d never bring Myan­mar kyat be­cause I knew it was non­con­vert­ible.’

Ma Win Myat Mon Fash­ion re­tailer

Photo: EPA

A shop­per walks past a pro­jec­tor dis­play­ing a lux­ury fash­ion ac­ces­sory ad­ver­tise­ment at a shop­ping mall in Bangkok in April.

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