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Junta Red Tape Sparks Medicine Shortages In Myanmar

The prices of pharmaceuticals in Myanmar have increased by 5 to 10 per cent and some medicines are out of stock because of red tape in the application procedure for import permits, industry insiders say. Medicines for diabetes, antibiotics for lung problems and supplements for babies are said to be almost out of stock. Previously, the Commerce Ministry handled import applications. But since April, pharmaceutical importers have also had to seek approval from the junta’s Central Committee on Ensuring Smooth Flow of Trade and Goods, its work committee and the regime’s Health Ministry. The lengthy procedure has caused price fluctuations and reduced availability, said importers. The committee divides the goods into five groups in order of priority. Fuel, cooking oil and pharmaceuticals are at the top of the list. But the procedure is unnecessarily long as the authorities check the average import volume of previous years, sources told The Irrawaddy. Junta spokesman Major General Zaw Min Tun told a press conference in June: “We give priority to essential imports. But we have restricted some goods.” He said imports also require the final approval of the Foreign Exchange Supervisory Committee, a junta body formed in April to “scrutinize and approve” the use of foreign currency for imports. The committee meets twice a week to handle applications and gives priority to essentials, he said. Myanmar imports around 85 per cent of its pharmaceuticals, mainly from China, India, Pakistan and Thailand.

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