Myanmar Foreign Exchange Regulations – A Chronological Overview | Denton

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Since the declaration of the state of emergency on February 1, 2021, disruptions in banking services, fluctuations in exchange rates and limits on cash withdrawals are among the pressing issues to be addressed on the ground. There have been several official updates on foreign exchange regulations issued by the Central Bank of Myanmar (CBM).

A chronological overview

  • April 3, 2022: conversion of foreign currencies into Myanmar kyats (MMK)
    • Under Directive 4/2022 and Notification 12/2022 issued by the CBM:
      • all foreign currency earned by Myanmar residents must be deposited in banks holding authorized dealer licenses (AD banks) and converted into MMK within one business day of receipt;
      • AD banks must convert foreign currency income received from abroad (commercial or non-commercial sources) into MMK within one business day at a specific conversion rate of 1,850 MMK to 1 US dollar (USD); and
      • outgoing foreign exchange transfers were subject to the approval of the Foreign Exchange Surveillance Committee (FESC).
  • April 5, 2022: exemption from directive 4/2022 and notification 12/2022 and other guidelines
    • Under Directives 5/2022 and 6/2022,
      • bank accounts operated by the Union government and/or ministries were exempt from the obligations set out in Directive 4/2022 and Notification 12/2022; and
      • indications on the procedure relating to the conversion of foreign currencies were given, which depended on the type of funds concerned, ie export income, loans from investments, income from services.
  • April 20, 2022: Notification exemptions 12/2022
    • CBM has defined the persons and entities exempted from complying with Notification 12/2022.
    • AD banks were required to conduct Know Your Customer (KYC) and Customer Due Diligence (CDD) processes before conducting foreign currency transactions.
  • 26 April 2022: new derogations from notification 12/2022
    • Under Directive 7/2022:
      • exporters and importers trading across the China-Myanmar or Thailand-Myanmar border (collectively referred to as border trade programs) will not need to comply with Notification 12/2022;
      • the foreign currency conversion deadline (i.e. THB-MMK or CNY-MMK) has been extended from one business day to one month; and
      • designated banks can make foreign currency payments for imports without seeking FESC approval.
  • May 25, 2022: Reminder on payment currency
    • CBM reminded relevant authorities to direct their subordinate organizations to make and receive payment in MMK for buying and selling goods in the domestic market instead of USD.
  • June 2, 2022: Logistics organizations are allowed to reserve foreign currency
    • Some logistics service organizations were allowed to reserve foreign currency up to a prescribed limit.
  • June 29, 2022: Limitation of the scope of Notification 12/2022
    • Certain subjects and organizations have been exempted from Notification 12/2022.
  • July 13, 2022: Restrictions imposed on foreign loans and companies owned at least 10% by foreigners
    • AD banks have been instructed (a) to suspend interest and principal repayment transactions of foreign loans obtained by domestic residents abroad and (2) to inform customers with foreign loans to structure a schedule repayment of interest and principal with foreign lenders.
    • Foreign-funded companies were no longer exempt from the requirements of Notification 12/2022.
  • July 15, 2022: mandatory conversion for companies owned up to 35% by foreigners
    • Compulsory foreign currency conversion of foreign currency accounts of Burmese companies with up to 35% foreign ownership.
  • August 5, 2022: Exporters only have to convert 65% of export earnings and the value of MMK drops
    • 65% of export earnings were to be converted into MMK.
    • the change in the exchange rate was 2100 MMK: 1 USD (adjusted from 1850 MMK: 1 USD).
  • August 10, 2022: exchange rate band of +/- 0.3%
    • Foreign currency that is transferred to or from an overseas destination must do so at an exchange rate within ±0.3% of the CBM reference rate.
    • The above applied to AD banks, banks/companies holding an exchange license to sell, buy or exchange foreign currency and companies holding an overseas funds transfer license to transfer foreign currency foreign.
  • August 16, 2022: Export Earnings Regulations
    • Exporters can use the remaining 35% of export earnings for themselves, transfer them to persons other than AD approved banks or sell them to an AD approved bank within 30 days of receipt. Otherwise, unused winnings will be sold to an AD bank.
    • Companies, organizations or individuals who have purchased export earnings can also use them for themselves or resell them to AD banks within 30 days.
  • August 29, 2022: Exporters must take greater responsibility for export fees
    • Exporters must pay shipping and other export charges from 35% of their export earnings.
  • August 30, 2022: Salary in foreign currency received abroad
    • Myanmar citizens abroad can freely use their foreign currency (outside Myanmar).

Conclusion

Amid the current global economic contraction, Myanmar is not spared. Myanmar’s economy has taken a hit since the COVID-19 pandemic and the declaration of a state of emergency, which came amid the country’s battle against the pandemic. Business operations and investments in Myanmar have been affected, and foreign direct investment has declined.

The fixed exchange rate is seen as detrimental to exporters and currency holders as the market rate is higher (i.e. based on supply and demand, with the demand for currency being higher ). Raising transaction prices in MMK to cope with losses and fluctuating exchange rates will aggravate existing inflation.

It is not certain that these regulations will last in the long term. Observers hope that the laws will eventually be revised for various reasons, including to resume business activities and attract investment to Myanmar. Myanmar’s banking sector will need to realign itself when regulations change, to be able to support transactions.

In light of the current situation in Myanmar, there are many uncertainties and doubts. Laws and regulations change rapidly and may be subject to further changes. Our local team helped our clients understand Myanmar regulations and policies.

Dentons Rodyk thanks and acknowledges Partner Hnin Htet Htet Naing, Legal Director Suit Myat Htet and intern Tricia for their contributions to this article.

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