Construction tycoon lashes out at ‘nonsense’ claims by Auditor General

Prominent businessman U Khin Shwe has described as “nonsense” criticism of his Zaykabar company’s concession of 25 acres in Kandawgyi Park made in an Auditor General’s report to the Yangon regional assembly on December 1.

The report attracted media attention because the Auditor General said the regional government had suffered losses of up to K1.05 billion (about US$814,000) a year from the concession.

The loss figures were based mainly on comparisons between the amount paid by Zaykabar to the Yangon City Development Committee to rent the 25 acres – K30 million ($23,255) a year for the first five years from 2010 to 2015 – and the amounts paid to the company by sub-lessees. The Auditor General’s report said one of the sub-lessees, the Dolphin restaurant, paid Zaykabar K1.7 million a month, or K20.4 million ($15,813) a year.

“It is nonsense because the space is being used for a different way,” U Khin Shwe told Frontier on December 12. “They said the Dolphin restaurant gets 0.25 acre but it pays K1.7 million a month, so, they calculated that I get 25 acres, but cheaper,” he said.

“They are comparing the restaurant area with the leasing area, but I am running recreation park businesses, not restaurants. I have to set a lot of space aside for walking and recreation. It is not like a restaurant. I use a lot of land area for growing plants, and my staff are watering the plants and trees. If the audit makes this comparison, it shows they are very weak professionals.”

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U Khin Shwe also described as “nonsense” a decision made by Yangon Mayor U Hla Myint in response to the report to double the park rent for the period from 2015 to 2020.

“The Yangon regional government decided to ask double rent on my parks because the parks are profitable,” U Khin Shwe said. “I want to say this is also nonsense,” he said. “We contracted for more than five to 10 percent increases annually, but the regional government is asking for a 100 percent increase annually. That’s why our country is losing a lot of investments, especially foreign investments.”

The Zaykabar company, which has diverse investments in construction and telecommunications, was granted the concession soon after U Khin Shwe was elected to the Amyotha Hluttaw as a Union Solidarity and Development Party representative for Yangon Region in 2010.

His daughter is married to the son of outgoing house Speaker, Thura U Shwe Mann.

Both men lost their seats to National League for Democracy rivals in the November 8 general election.

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