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Rising costs in Myanmar put strain on UNICEF’s resources in Yangon

YANGON, Myanmar, 22 May 2014 - The end of foreign sanctions and the opening up of Myanmar has benefitted millions of children paving the way for greater progress, however they have also led to higher operational costs for UN agencies and other aid organizations.

Over the past three years, UNICEF’s rent has nearly doubled, and escalating costs have put a strain on resources, in turn making it more difficult to meet the needs of the population.

As the country opened up to foreign business, competition to take advantage of the new opportunities has created a dramatic increase in demand for accommodation. In 2012 UNICEF was given one year’s notice by the Ministry of Tourism and the owner of the Traders Hotel to vacate the premises by mid-2013. The rate the Trader’s Hotel was US$1 per square foot (approx. $45,000 per month for 130 staff).

Due to the rising costs, the organization searched for new smaller premises – although for a larger staff – and chose the most cost-effective option available.

UNICEF undertook an extensive search of some 40 premises or spaces in various locations in Yangon (in Botataung Township, Kyauktada Township, Pabedan Township, Yankin Township, Kamayut Township, Hlaing Township, Mayangone Township and Bahan Township). However the properties were either too expensive, too difficult to reconstruct as they were residential, were incomplete buildings, or held potential risk of flooding. 

The current office premises, in Inya Myaing Road in Bahan Township was then offered at a competitive rent of US$2.90 per sq. ft. The owner agreed to bear the additional expense of full refurbishment to meet office needs and provided a 3,000 sq. ft. side building free-of-charge. The office space is 33,000 sq. ft. at a steep rental of $ 87,000 per month. However the rent is fixed for 7 years and it is a competitive commercial price in a tough market.

Some international agencies have had to pay considerably more than our $2.90 per sq. ft. for suitable space to avoid halting their programmes.

Standard due diligence on the owner and her family concluded that none of the international sanctions in place until recently had been levied against the landlady or her immediate family and no criminal charges were extant. Although allegations against a member of her family who was once a member of the previous military regime surfaced, the official had since left public office and was not subject to any criminal charges or international sanctions. Consequently, the best interests of the children we exist to help would not be damaged through this commercial engagement.

UNICEF, like other UN agencies in a similar predicament, continues to seek free or supported space from the Government of Myanmar. It is committed to continuing support for the country’s children, who will ultimately benefit from the political reforms and related economic development.

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About UNICEF
UNICEF promotes the rights and wellbeing of every child, in everything we do. Together with our partners, we work in 190 countries and territories to translate that commitment into practical action, focusing special effort on reaching the most vulnerable and excluded children, to the benefit of all children, everywhere. For more information about UNICEF and its work visit: http://www.unicef.org/. Follow UNICEF on Twitter and Facebook

For more information please contact:

Sarah Crowe, UNICEF New York, Tel: +1 646 209 1590, scrowe@unicef.org


 

 

 

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