World Bank pledges to support Myanmar development

World Bank pledges to support Myanmar development
After years of being in the dark, Myanmar is on the verge of supplying power to several of its more rural areas, courtesy of an interest free loan from the World Bank. The loan, totaling 165 million USD, is part of an initiative to improve electricity distribution throughout the Southeast Asian nation.

At a press conference held in Yangon on 5 February, Axel van Trotsenburg, the World Bank’s East Asia and Pacific vice president, commented on the importance of helping in the development of Myanmar’s infrastructure and energy sector. The representative, along with other delegates from the bank, met with President Thein Sein’s
administration over the course of 3 days to discuss the prospects of embracing rapid transformation within Myanmar and to address strategic power sector reform in order to ensure sustainable access to electricity, as well as attract more foreign investment.

Following the Tuesday conference, Jin-Yong Cai, the Vice-President and CEO of the International Finance Corporation (IFC), confirmed Myanmar would use the funds to conduct projects that may assist with the nation’s development.

At the recent press conference, promoting improved electricity supply as a key development priority that requires public and private investment, was the main topic.

The country’s energy demand is steadily growing fast, with current supply more than 30 percent below demand in Myanmar.

The 165 million USD, zero-interest loan for priority needs, will be distributed in addition to a 80 million USD development grant that will enable smaller areas to improve local facilities. The grant will go towards improving schools, clinics, roads, and water supply.

At present, only 25 percent of the population currently has access to reliable electricity. Though a resource-rich nation, Myanmar is still afflicted with destitution – with approximately 32% of the population living in poverty. While under the rule of the authoritarian -junta government for nearly 50 years, the country’s production, education, and economy was stunted. Signs of progress and international attention within Myanmar, were limited and far reaching prior to reforms enacted by the Thein Sein administration.

During the recent conference, Mr. van Trotsenburg inspired hope by maintaining the loan would assist Myanmar in establishing “sufficient, reliable and affordable electricity”. He supported the widely held belief that the proliferation of energy is instrumental in relieving poverty in rural areas and creating opportunities for all.

The World Bank Group previously supported dramatic expansion of electricity access in Lao PDR and Vietnam. Following funding, more than 80 percent of Lao PDR citizens are connected, and in Vietnam over 97 percent of citizens have access to power; the distribution of power has improved the economic climate of both countries significantly.

Economic updates suggest Myanmar’s economy accelerated in the 2011-2012 fiscal year, boasting a GDP growth of 5.5 percent. The country’s growth is expected to reach 6.3 percent in the 2012-2013 fiscal year.

The Myanmar government will also set up a new microfinance institution in the country to provide loans to more than 200,000 people by 2020. The loans will mostly be micro and small business loans that will be managed by women.

The World Bank also commented on supporting the ongoing peace process and stressed the importance of peace in development success. The Bank pledged to work with the government to improve the management of its budget and public finances. Areas related to the agriculture and mining sector were briefly discussed, but no plans were developed.


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