Rajah & Tann Regional Round-Up
your snapshot of key legal developments in Asia
Issue 2 - Apr/May/Jun 2021
 

CBM Restrictions and Cash Shortage on the Ground

Following the Military Coup that took place on the 1 February 2020 in Myanmar, the Central Bank of Myanmar ("CBM") has issued a number of directives with the aim of controlling cash flow and keeping the country's economy from collapsing.


Reduction of Minimum Reserve Requirement for Banks


CBM issued a notification on the 3.5% minimum reserve requirement for banks in mid-February. This has been further reduced under latest Reserve Requirement Directive on 7 May 2021 to 3% until 30 September 2021 to help free up more funds for the banks to meet the demand of their customers wishing to withdraw funds. The significance of the impact of this reduction remains to be seen as it depends on the customers and the public in general and whether they decide to continue to withdraw funds from their accounts.


Limit cash withdrawals at ATMs and bank branches


A letter urging businesses to use digital payment infrastructures was issued in March with a limit on cash withdrawals at ATMs of MMK 500,000 daily, and a limit at bank branches of MMK 2,000,000 for individuals and MMK 20,000,000 for companies per week. However, since the beginning of June, some banks are experiencing cash shortage, and there have been cases of customers being able to withdraw only MMK 500,000- MMK 1,000,000. Most ATMs also remain out of cash with banks being unable to top up ATMs due to cash shortage. 


The severe cash shortage in Myanmar has caused many businesses and individuals to face financial difficulties. This has also led to a few individuals within the banking industry taking commissions of up to 12% for cash withdrawn by the bank customers. In that regard, CBM issued a warning via a letter dated 15 April 2021 to banking staff and certain individuals hoarding and selling cash to those in need during the ongoing currency shortage. The letter states that such activity violates Section 99(b) of the Central Bank of Myanmar Law, which is punishable, on conviction, with a fine and/or imprisonment for a term not exceeding two years.


Possible Cash Withdrawal Ceiling for Microfinance Institutions

On 19 May 2021, the Financial Regulatory Department ("FRD") under the Central Bank of Myanmar ("CBM") issued a letter requiring licensed Microfinance Institutions ("MFIs") to provide a one-time information report to CBM on the expected cash withdrawal amount over a one-week period. Referring to the CBM Directive 28/2021 setting cash withdrawal restrictions to companies to MMK 20,000,000 per week, the letter states that CBM intends to set a different cash withdrawal limit for MFIs in order to ease their operations. This new limit/ceiling for MFIs has yet to be published by CBM. 


CBM Directive on Non-Banking Financial Institutions on Opening or Closing of Branch Office and Relocation of Head Office

On 15 June 2021, the Central Bank of Myanmar ("CBM") issued a directive to Non-Banking Financial Institutions ("NBFIs") in relation to seeking approval on the (i) opening or closing of a branch office; and (ii) relocation of their head offices.


a.   Opening a new NBFI branch office/ relocating an NBFI head office


CBM requires the NBFI to provide (i) a completed application form for the opening of a new branch office or relocation of its head office; (ii) a Board of Directors ("BOD") resolution approving the opening of a new branch or the relocation of its head office; (iii) a feasibility study; and (iv) photos of the new office/branch office. 


The NBFI is also required to provide evidence that it has made a fee payment of MMK 200,000 in the case of opening a new branch office. Relocating an NBFI head office requires no further fee payment.


b.   Closing a branch office of an NBFI


CBM requires the NBFI to provide (i) a BOD resolution approving the closure of the branch office; (ii) the reasons for the closure; and (iii) its plan of action regarding the payables and receivables of the closing branch.


Updates on New Trademark Registration

On 28 August 2020, the Ministry of Commerce ("MOC") issued Order No. 63/2020 specifying the soft opening of the new online trademark registration system ("Trademark Order"). The soft opening period under the Trademark Order began on 1 October 2020 and will last until the official commencement of online filing for all Trademarks (which is due to be announced by the Government). Although the soft opening period was expected to end after six months, it remains in effect due to the administration changes following the military coup over the past few months. The official date for the commencement of online filing has not been announced.


As of 1 July 2021, existing registered trademarks may still be filed by way of online applications to the Intellectual Property Department (IPD). We are also pleased to notify that the Registration of Deeds Office has resumed its normal operations and is accepting new trademarks to be registered. 


We will keep you updated on any further developments to the Trademark Registration.


For more information on the Trademark Order, click here to read our Legal Update. 


Law Amending Union Tax Law 2020

The State Administration Council has amended the Union Tax Law ("UTL") by virtue of State Administration Council Law No. 20/2021, the Law Amending the Union Tax Law ("amended UTL"). The amended UTL changes the tax rates levied on income that had escaped assessment and is used for purchasing, construction, obtaining fixed assets, or expanding a business. The following table highlights the amended tax rates:


No.

Income (MMK)

Tax Rate

From

To

1.

1

100,000,000

3%

2.

100,000,001

300,000,000

5%

3.

300,000,001

1,000,000,000

10%

4.

1,000,000,001

3,000,000,000

15%

5.

3,000,000,001 and above

30%


The lower-tier tax rates have been restored to the rates as they were when introduced in the 2019 Union Tax Law. This seeks to relieve tax burdens on lower income groups. 


Please contact us for specific advice concerning changes in the amended UTL.


State Administration Council Carries out Ministerial Changes in Myanmar

The State Administration Council has carried out several changes in the cabinet as ministries were devolved and a new ministry was created. The Ministry of Planning, Finance, and Industry was devolved into two new ministries: (i) the Ministry of Planning and Finance and (ii) the Ministry of Industry by virtue of State Administration Council Order No. 117/2021 on 3 May 2021. Furthermore, the Ministry of Education (Science and Technology) was devolved into separate ministries: (i) the Ministry of Education and (ii) the Ministry of Science and Technology by virtue of State Administration Council Order No. 138/2021 on 17 June 2021. Finally, a new Ministry of Cooperative and Rural Development under State Administration Council Order No. 140/2021 was created on 17 June 2021. We are closely monitoring and adapting to the regulatory ramifications which may occur due to the ministerial changes. 


Please contact us for specific advice concerning changes in the regulatory governance in Myanmar.


Reformation of the National Payment System Governing Committee

The State Administration Council has reformed the National Payment System Governing Committee ("NPSGC") by virtue of State Administration Council Order No. 147/2021 for the purposes of rectifying the economic crisis in Myanmar. The aims of the new NPSGC include but are not limited to the: (i) promotion of digital currency in Myanmar; (ii) reinvigoration of the electronic payment system; (iii) eradication of illegal cash payment systems; and (iv) implementation of the ASEAN Economic Integration program. The newly reformed NPSGC will be chaired by the Central Bank of Myanmar. Numerous other ministries will be members of the NPSGC.




Please note that whilst the information in this Update is correct to the best of our knowledge and belief at the time of writing, it is only intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter and should not be treated as a substitute for specific professional advice.

 

Rajah & Tann
Myanmar Company Limited
Myanmar Centre Tower 1, Floor 07, Unit 08,
192 Kaba Aye Pagoda Road, Bahan Township,
Yangon, Myanmar
http://mm.rajahtannasia.com


Contacts:

Dr Min Thein
Managing Partner
D +951 9345343
F +951 9345348
min.thein@rajahtann.com

Chester Toh
Director
D +65 62320220
chester.toh@rajahtann.com

Jainil Bhandari
Director
D +65 62320601
jainil.bhandari@rajahtann.com

Rajah & Tann Asia is a network of legal practices based in Asia.

Member firms are independently constituted and regulated in accordance with relevant local legal requirements. Services provided by a member firm are governed by the terms of engagement between the member firm and the client.

This update is solely intended to provide general information and does not provide any advice or create any relationship, whether legally binding or otherwise. Rajah & Tann Asia and its member firms do not accept, and fully disclaim, responsibility for any loss or damage which may result from accessing or relying on this update.