Negotiations on to ensure Alipay, WeChat use CBM payment gateway

Negotiations are under way to make sure transactions on the WeChat Pay and Alipay services — which are used by Chinese tourists visiting the country — pass through the payment gateway of the Central Bank of Myanmar (CBM), said Naw Pan Thinzar Myo, the Yangon Region Minister for Kayin Ethnic Affairs.

The move would help monitor the flow of payments and could potentially generate revenue from tax. “We are currently allowing digital banking. Payments through visa, master and union pay are officially allowed in Myanmar. Transactions made on these cards go through the CBM payment gateway. Now, we want to ensure that money spent by Chinese tourists officially passes through the CBM. The bank is working on this,” said Naw Pan Thinzar Myo.

“When Chinese tourists pay for hotel rooms, and buy souvenirs or meals in restaurants using WeChat and Alipay services, the funds need to flow through the CBM. Therefore, CBM officials have gone to China to negotiate with the two companies,” she said.

“The country is losing tax revenue as most of the Chinese tourists are using WeChat and Alipay for making e-payments. We need to tackle this. Recently, Nepal banned China’s Alipay and WeChat pay. We would also need to decide whether we should ban the services or find ways to generate tax revenue from them,” she added.

“At present, Chinese tourists are opting for cheap tour packages offered by Chinese tour agencies, which are also known as zero dollar or zero budget tours. But, they were asked to buy jade lots at set shops,” she added.

Myanmar receives application fees of US$50 from Chinese tourists for issuing visas. They are spending a minimum of $60 per day. They usually choose cheap package tours in which money does not flow anywhere but zero-dollar tourism networks, which include hotels, restaurants, and retail shops connected to the Chinese tour operators. Nevertheless, the country receives commercial tax from those shops.

Most of the tourists entering the country are from China. Between January and July, 2018, over 600,000 tourist arrivals were registered in Yangon. The arrivals increased to over 800,000 in the corresponding period this year, according to the Yangon Region Directorate of Hotels and Tourism. Earlier, the hotels and tourism sector was regulated by the Union government. With the implementation of the Myanmar Tourism Law 2018, the sector has been decentralized and more power accorded to the region and state governments, said Naw Pan Thinzar Myo.

Yangon Region Chief Minister U Phyo Min Thein is the chairman of the region tourism committee, while Naw Pan Thinzar Myo is the deputy chairman. The committee also includes officials from the Ministry of Home Affairs, the Ministry of Religious Affairs and Culture, the Ministry of Labour, Immigration and Population, the Directorate of Hotels and Tourism, the Department of Environmental Conservation, the Yangon City Development Committee, the Union of Myanmar Travel Association, and Civil Society Organizations as members.

Source: The Global New Light of Myanmar

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