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Myanmar cracks down on illegal trade, tax evasion

Myanmar is clamping down on illegal trading and tax evasions to better reflect its trade numbers. Authorities are now expanding their inspections to five international ports and airport in Yangon.

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.

This is to make sure that traders are accurately declaring the products and paying appropriate custom duties.

Officers were unable to specify how much of such undeclared goods are entering the country, but said 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 at Commerce and Consumer Affairs Department, 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 said cars, spare parts and food like cooking oil are the main items entering Myanmar illegally.

Other products include computer printers which were not declared at customs.

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

Retired economics professor Dr Maung Maung Soe said: "Harbour is not the only place. 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 educate the illegal traders for the sake for the country. So it's not only acting and searching and seizing all the commodities from the black market area. We need to educate the people and we have to persuade to become on the right track on the trade.”

The government agreed this 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 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 region will see an increased free flow of goods and services.  

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