Mandalay gold-leaf businesses protest new rules at Shwedagon

About 200 Mandalay gold-leaf business owners and workers protested on Tuesday in Mandalay city against the Shwedagon Pagoda trustee board’s new tender rules for gold leaf, saying it may lead to the disappearance of their livelihoods.

Last month, Shwedagon Pagoda Trustee Group invited tenders for 25,000 gold-leaf packets over the next three years. The tender deadline is Thursday.

“The Shwedagon Pagoda trustee board invited tenders for both handmade and machine-made gold leaf. In terms of pricing, machine-made gold leaf has a better chance to win the contract, so we ask them to rethink the new rules,” said U Zaw Min Aung, owner of Aung Tagon gold leaf business.

About three years ago, when Shwedagon Pagoda trustee board invited tenders for 30,000 pieces of gold leaf over a three-year period, a business producing machine-made gold leaf won the bidding with a price that was about K120 million less than that of handmade gold leaf.

“Machine-made gold leaf can be made with every kind of gold, but handmade gold leaf can be made only with 24-carat gold. The price gap between handmade and machine-made gold leaf is about K4000 apiece. We can’t make our gold leaf by reducing quality. We have to use 24-carat gold,” he said.

“Machine-made gold leaf producers can charge much less than us, so we might lose the current tender. The trustees should call for separate tenders for both types of gold-leaf packets,” said U Zaw Min Aung.

The Shwedagon Pagoda Trustee Group used to be the biggest customer for gold-leaf packets from around 200 businesses in Myatparyat of Mandalay.

“Handmade gold leaf is no longer used at Shwedagon Pagoda in Yangon, and Ayeyarwaddy Region has also started using machine-made gold leaf. If this continues because of the price difference, we will go out of business. Pagoda trustees should think not only of saving money but also of helping traditional craftspeople,” said the owner of Aungthayaphu gold leaf business, U Maung Su.

Demand for handmade gold leaf has fallen 20pc because of market competition from machine-made gold leaf.

Shwedagon Pagoda’s Chief Elder U Tun Aung Ngwe was unavailable for comment on Tuesday.

Source: Myanmar Times

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