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Published on Monday, 25 February 2013 16:00
The finance ministry has asked the Myanmar Investment Commission to reconsider its decision to allow Myanmar Annawa Swan Arshin Group to import US$900 million worth of goods without having to pay import taxes, sources at the ministry and commission said.
The conglomerate, whose ownership structure remains opaque, won the controversial bid last year to turn Ahlone Shipyard into an international port and applied for duty-free status for imports at the 20-hectare project, sources said.
“Initially, the group requested that the commission allow it to import $30 million worth of goods duty free,” a source at the commission said. “Later, the group made another request to change the import value to $900 million for various kinds of merchandise, explaining that its first calculation was wrong,” the official said.
The official said that the same kind and number of items were listed on both requests but all of their values were raised on the second one. The second request was approved by the commission despite the staggering rise from $30 million to $900 million, the official said, adding that the list includes $80,000-apiece sport utility vehicles and luxury cars worth more than $100,000 apiece.
Sources at the commission said the second request was approved without a detailed and transparent review.
Bribery and corruption at government agencies are fuelled by their lack of oversight and transparency, business sources say.
The request was delayed last week by the Ministry of Finance and Revenue, a ministry official said. The ministry asked the commission to review the request for tax emption for security reasons, the official said.
A spokesperson for the ministry told Eleven Media that almost every company applies for tax relief each year. Import taxes have been cut for more than 90 companies investing under the foreign investment law and more than 100 under the Myanmar citizen investment law as an incentive for economic development.
The state could lose tens of millions of dollars from this one duty-free deal alone, sources said.