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Myanmar clamps down on illegal trading, tax evasions

Myanmar is clamping down on illegal trading and tax evasions to better reflect its trade numbers. Over a one-and-a-half-year period, officers confiscated illegal goods worth about US$17 million.

YANGON: Myanmar is clamping down on illegal trading and tax evasions to better reflect its trade numbers.

Over a one-and-a-half-year period, officers confiscated illegal goods worth about US$17 million.

Authorities are now expanding their inspections to five international ports and airport in Yangon.

They are conducting more spot checks on goods imported into Myanmar, and making sure that traders are accurately declaring the products and paying appropriate custom duties.

Officers are unable to specify how much of such undeclared goods are entering the country, except that they are seeing more cases.

Myanmar believes it can get a better picture of the country's trade numbers by clamping down on such activities.

The country's overall trade volume was about US$25 billion last year. With tighter inspections, authorities expect it to grow to over US$30 billion this year.

Nyunt Aung, deputy director general of the Commerce and Consumer Affairs Department at the Commerce Ministry, said: "Our mobile teams will conduct inspections.

"Trade volume will increase. Consumers will be protected and we can expect fairer competition for our small and medium enterprises."

Authorities say cars, spare parts and food like cooking oil are the main items entering Myanmar illegally.

Other such products include computer printers and even a jet-ski, which were not declared at customs.

Stepped-up checks at international trading gateways are good, but some are not convinced this will be effective.

Dr Maung Maung Soe, a retired economics professor, said: "Harbours are not the only places. There are so many harbours along the riverside or near the ocean; there are so many ways to escape from the channel.

“Along with the action, we need to educate the illegal traders for the sake of the country. So it's not only searching and seizing all the commodities from the black market area. We need to also educate the people and we have to persuade them to be on the right track in the trade.”

The government agrees the clampdown is a short term measure to tackle illegal trading.

Nyunt Aung said: "It's not a 100 per cent reduction but it can help to address the problem to a certain level. According to our previous seizures, our actions are effective. We are able to reduce illegal trading by about 30 or 40 per cent."

About 80 per cent of Myanmar's total trade enters into the country via international ports.

With its total trade volume expected to increase to over US$30 billion this year, Myanmar wants to weed out as many illegal trade and tax evasion cases as possible.

This is to help them try to attain international standards as well as to prepare themselves for the coming of the ASEAN Economic Community by next year when the entire region will see an increased free flow of goods and services.  

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