The Central Bank of Myanmar will allow up to ten foreign banks to operate in the country, the secretary of a parliamentary committee told Mizzima on June 10.

A selection committee established by the CBM was accepting applications and would decide by the end of the year which foreign banks would receive operating licences, said U Win Myint, the secretary of the Pyithu Hluttaw’s Banks and Monetary Development Committee.

“We should not allow too many, nor choose too few foreign banks to operate in Myanmar. We think ten is an appropriate number,” said U Win Myint.

To protect Myanmar banks, the foreign banks would initially not be allowed to handle kyat.

“As yet we do not have adequate rules, regulations or procedures for laws on the central bank and monetary system,but we could have them in place by the end of the year, just in time for the approval of these foreign banks,” he said.

U Win Myint said 42 foreign banks had representative offices in Myanmar.

The managing director of the Cooperative Bank, U Phay Myint, told Mizzima on June 10 that he was confident of the bank’s ability to compete against foreign banks.

“I had heard rumours that this was to happen, but I did not know that [foreign] banks would officially be permitted to open,” U Phay Myint said.

“I don’t think it will hurt the Myanmar banks, though they may poach local bank staff with higher salaries,” he said.

The chairman of the Myanmar Bankers’ Association, U Thein Tun, was more cautious in his assessment.

“I think allowing foreign banks to open in Myanmar could hurt local banks,” U Thein Tun told Mizzima on June 10.

” It is still too early for the local banks to face this competition; I would prefer this wait until local banks are ready to compete,” he said.