SBI plans Myanmar operation

Himalayan News Service

Yangon, May 26:

More than 40 years after it wound up operations in Myanmar, the State Bank of India (SBI) is mulling resuming operations in the country once again. A team of SBI officials was in Yangon early this month to assess whether the Indian bank can have a representative office here.

The SBI had operations in the agriculturally rich country till a military government under General Ne Win started nationalising business and commercial enterprises after coming to power in 1962.

Along with the SBI, other Indian business entities like insurance majors Life In surance Corporation of India and Oriental Insurance had to close operations and make an exit.

During a succession of military regimes since then, Myanmar, formerly known as Burma, has seen a banking crisis and plummeting of the national currency, the kyat. Currently, there are 20 private banks in Myanmar with over 220 branches. Under the regulations, a foreign bank still cannot operate a branch office in the country.

However, in view of India’s ‘Look East’ policy that stresses the importance of developing better diplomatic and economic ties with Myanmar, with which it shares part of its border, SBI is looking at a representative office in Yangon to facilitate transactions, especially for bilateral exports and imports. Indian pharmaceuticals, steel and construction materials form the bulk of Indian exports while the imports are rice, pulses and timber. The only other Indian bank to have a Myanmar connection is the Exim Bank of India through which most of the soft loans to the government from New Delhi are routed.