Friday, August 18, 2017

Cap set on Taungbyone stall fees

Organisers of the famous Taungbyone nat festival have set a cap on how much companies can charge stall-holders for space, after high rental fees resulted in many vendors boycotting last year’s event.

A natkadaw, or spirit medium, at the Taungbyone nat festival in 2012. (Phyo Wai Kyaw/The Myanmar Times)A natkadaw, or spirit medium, at the Taungbyone nat festival in 2012. (Phyo Wai Kyaw/The Myanmar Times)

The festival takes place in Taungbyone village, in Mandalay Region’s Madaya township, in the week leading up to the full moon of Wagaung, which this year will be August 14 to 21. Held to honour the nat (animist spirit) brothers Min Gyi and Min Lay, it draws tens of thousands of pilgrims from across the country.

The festival’s trustees last week auctioned off the rights to nine income-generating aspects of the festival – including collecting store rental at the “big” and “small” markets, and collecting electricity and water supply fees – and raised K80 million (about US$82,000).

However, this was significantly down on last year – the first time in 15 years that trustees had conducted such an auction – when companies paid K300 million. Many of last year’s winning bidders are thought to have lost money during the event.

The auction was conducted at the Madaya Township General Administration Department office on July 15, said U Sann Yu Aung, vice president of the board of trustees. While he would not reveal how many bids were submitted, he said between 20 and 25 forms were sold for each of the nine auctions.

“There was strong competition in last year’s auction but less so this year. One reason is that we said the winning bidders could not collect more than K150,000 for a 5-foot-wide stall,” U Sann Yu Aung said.

Accordingly, the winning bidders offered just K20 million for the small market and K17 million for the big market, down from K140 million and K130 million respectively last year.

Last year’s auction winners subsequently raised stall rental fees to as much as K500,000, up from just K80,000 in 2011. As a result the number of vendors at the festival was down by more than one-third, with many who normally attend the festival boycotting the price hike.

Vendors said they were pleased trustees had introduced the fee cap.

“Based on the size of the winning bids I think they will charge about K100,000 for a stall rather than the maximum of K150,000,” vendor U Shwe said on July 15.

Similar limits have been put in place on other services: the winner of the electricity supply auction cannot charge more than K700 for a 4-foot long light, after vendors complained that the K1850 charged last year was too high.