YANGON May 9 Manufacturers in Myanmar's two
biggest cities are facing steep increases in costs and possible
job losses after the government shut down their electricity
supply, the latest sign that the ageing power grid is holding
back economic development.
The country's Electricity Supply Board said it had halted
power supplies to industrial zones outside Yangon and Mandalay
from Monday due to drought.
"If this situation lasts a long time, some factories won't
be able to sustain operations," Myat Thin Aung, chairman of the
Hlaing Tharyar Industrial Zone, which lies on the outskirts of
the former capital, Yangon, told Reuters.
Under President Thein Sein, a former junta general who has
headed a quasi-civlian government since March 2011, Myanmar has
set about rimplementing economic and social forms, released
political prisoners and improved fundamental rights.
In recognition of those reforms, Western governments have
dropped or eased sanctions.
But modernising the once-pariah state and reviving sectors
neglected under military rule remain uphill tasks.
Myint Soe, a chairman of the Myanmar Garment Manufacturers
Association, said operating costs had nearly quadrupled since
factories had to turn to diesel-run generators to replace lost
"The authority has not told us when exactly we can expect a
regular supply of power," said Myint Soe. A prolonged outage, he
said, could force factories to lay off workers to cut costs.
A senior official from Yangon Electricity Supply Board told
Reuters that the board decided to direct its dwindling
electricity supply to residential areas.
He said power would be restored once the monsoon season
arrived this month, filling reservoirs at hydroelectric dams,
which provide 70 percent of Myanmar's electricity.
"We are doing our best to increase generation, but demand is
soaring all the time," said the official, who declined to be
identified as he was not authorised to speak to the media.
In a report released in November, the Asian Development Bank
(ADB) urged international donors to help Myanmar rehabilitate
and upgrade its power system, predicting that demand for
electricity would double by 2018. It described electrification
as an "urgent requirement".
According to the ADB, around 67 percent of households in
Yangon, Myanmar's biggest city, have access to electricity
compared to 16 percent of households in rural areas.
(Additional reporting by Jared Ferrie; Editing by Amy Sawitta
Lefevre and Ron Popeski)