“The electricity is cut off very frequently, and it is not fine with our bakery business. Usually the electricity comes at night, and it has been many sleepless nights. The productivity is decreased which leads to lesser income,” Ma Moe Moe let out a long sigh while initiating her story.
Ma Moe Moe family has been in this bakery business for many years, and they have never faced such a severe electricity outage.
“The blackout is very unpredictable, so it is very hard to decide whether to bake or not. If the electric power is cut while the baking is in progress, everything will be ruined,” Ma Moe Moe continued telling her family business difficulties.
One year after the coup, the electricity outage is becoming worse and worse. The civilians whose businesses are relying on government electricity are having a hard time to survive.
“If the electricity is going to be interrupted like this, our bakery business will not be all right. We do not even know when the electricity will be on or off. The worst thing is when the electricity is cut while baking is in progress,” Ma Moe Moe disappointedly explained her business situation.
Alternatively if a generator is used, it is not a way out either because the price of the gas and other materials are very high. That is the reason it is very challenging to operate a bakery business.
“Another main problem is that the price of the gas and other related products are also high. I do not know what to do in the long run for my bakery business and my family livelihood,” Ma Moe Moe opened up to SHAN with her sad voice.
The average total hours of blackout nationwide is about 12 hours daily, and it has affected the daily activities of the civilians and small business owners.
According to Ma Moe Moe who is running a bakery business in Taunggyi, the unpredictable power failure created loses for the business and negatively impacted the overall revenue.
The Ministry of Electricity and Energy made an announcement on 6 March 2022 that the electricity would be cut 24 hours from 12 – 18 March 2022 which received criticism from the public that Myanmar is turning back to the stone age.
Moreover, the long period of power blackout has become the worst condition in a decade as a consequence of the recent military coup.
“It is dissatisfied to see the military authority does not have accountability and responsibility over the frequent power outage. It is like we are living in ten years back condition,” Ma Moe Moe added.
People in Pang Long township, Southern Shan State, are facing similar or worse situation – approximately electric power is distributed only six hours daily. Those who are in rice mill business and relying on this business alone are having difficulties for their livelihood.
According to U Pa (Not real name), a 60 years old rice mill business owner who lives in Pang Long, the current military government administration is deteriorating day by day, and the civilians are worried that they will have to live in fear and poor like during the General Than Shwe and General Ne Win military government.
“The rice mill business is longer good because of the blackout. The electricity is on and off all the time – it is unpredictable. This is because of the military government – we might end up queuing to buy rice like during U Than Shwe and U Ne Win government. I am worried that day may come,” U Pa quoted.
The rice mill is heavily relying on electricity, and it will not be profitable if generator is used as an alternative because of the high gas price and the compatibility of the systems.
“When the power outage started, I did not think that it would be a long period and regular. So, the rice mill was operated at night when power was on, so it was very tiresome for my employees. Since it was quite cold at night, some employees got sick. Rice milling is a labor intensive job. We need both employees and electricity. Currently, the mill is running only when the power is on during the day. Therefore, it is not easy for the family depending on this rice mill business,” U Pa told SHAN.
U Pa said that the time his rice mill sits still is more than the time it is running, and that he would like to get back to his regular schedule when he has electricity. He hopes someday the electricity will be enough to distribute full time.
In this well developed technology era, one of the consequences of the military coup was that the developing country like Myanmar is now facing the irregularity of blackout and interrupted financial services which have a severe impact on the civilian businesses and their long term survival.
The use of generator as an alternative source of power is not a good option because of the higher price of gas.
Sai Thiha (not a real name), a Shan youth who lives in Loilam said that the longer the dark night without the electricity the more worrisome it is to the instability and security in the region.
“If the power is continuing to be cut and the price of the gas is higher and higher, one of the worst consequences would be our security. After the coup, the most noticeable thing is the illicit drug users – they are consuming drugs publicly on the roadsides. We could not sleep well at night, we do not dare to do so because we are always anxious about the addicts – when will they sneak into our house,” Sai Thiha told SHAN.
Sai Thiha also said that the authorities and the current leaders should pay attention to the civilian voices and understand their problems, and they should find a suitable solution.
“Whoever is governing the country, if they care about the civilian’s prosperity, wellbeing, transportation and communication, they will be accepted. So, what I would like to say to the current government is that if they do not know how to govern, just leave. If not, it’s the civilians who are affected the most,” Sai Thiha added.
The power outage and higher gas price are not only damaging the trade and family businesses but also becoming a big challenge to farmers .
A Mawk Mai farmer, Lone Noom, also expressed his difficulties that farmers cannot be happy about the increase in price of rice this year because when they calculate the cost to reinvest for the next year harvest, they feel heavy at heart due to the overall inflation.
“Along with the higher price of rice, the price of paddy seeds will also increase. The price of the fertilizers and the cost of the machinery renting will also be increased. We can no longer use cows and buffalos to plough the farms like in the past, we need machines which need to use gas – the cost of gas is also increasing,” Lone Noom explained the current situation of farmers.
Shan State capital, Taunggyi city and other townships in Shan State started experiencing the electricity breakdown since October 2021. At first, the military government made an advance announcement of the outage with a timetable; however, no such announcement was made later on and the power cut became unpredictable and frequent.
Even though generator and gas can be used to produce alternative energy to run the electricity oriented businesses like bakery, rice mill, and other electrical products, it is not economically viable due to the higher price in gas and petroleum.
“We are still trying to find the alternative solution for the electricity to run our business. Meanwhile, we also have daily expenses for our family. Sometimes, I get lost and I do not know what to do,” the bakery business owner, Ma Moe Moe, disappointedly concluded her conversation.