YANGON, MYANMAR —
An unprecedented plunge in the value of Myanmar’s currency, the kyat, has driven up the prices of key imported commodities, placing basic commodities ranging from auto fuel to cooking oil beyond the reach of many ordinary citizens.
The dollar exchange rate showed particular volatility during the last week of September, when surging demand for the American currency pushed the rate to a record high of about 2,700 kyats to the dollar – almost double the rate before the Feb. 1 coup.
Since then, the prices of fuel and imported commodities, especially cooking oil, have risen by nearly 50%, prompting laments from local businessmen who spoke to VOA, including rice exporters and merchants, importers of cooking oil and grocery dealers.
Yangon taxi drivers have been particularly hard hit. Many have stopped driving because they cannot afford fuel and some tell VOA they will quit the business entirely if the price does not drop.
“It is the worst situation I have ever had in 40 years of driving a taxi,” said Al Doe, a 53-year-old taxi driver in Yangon’s North Dagon township. Before September, Al Doe earned 30,000 kyats per day and spent 6,000 kyats of that for fuel.
“Now I spend 20,000 kyats for fuel a day, but earn only 30,000 kyats. If I had to pay 10,000 kyats to my [car] owner, I would get nothing. But I can still survive because my owner does not ask for rent during these days,” the father of three children told VOA.