Aug 4, 2012

World financial groups re-engage with Myanmar to support reform

he World Bank opened its first country office in Yangon's Inya Lake Hotel Wednesday, while preparing to grant 85 million U.S. dollars to support Myanmar's reform drive.
The World Bank's move signified a re-engagement with Myanmar by a world financial institution after decades-long non-engagement.
World Bank Group Vice President for East Asia and Pacific Pamela Cox announced the grant at the opening of the office which was jointly made with Karin Finkeiston, International Finance Corporation Vice President for Asia and Pacific .
"The Bank is preparing to present to its Board up to 85 million U.S. dollars in grant to benefit men, women and children through community driven development programs which will allow communities to decide whether to invest in schools, roads, water or other projects," said a press release of the World Bank Group.
However, it also said "Myanmar will have access to interest- free loan from the International Development Association (IDA), the World Bank's fund for the poorest countries, after it clears arrears of 397 million USD to the World Bank."
"We are committed to eradicating poverty and the new office opening in Myanmar will allow us to reach some of the poorest people in East Asia. They have been cut off from the global economy for too long and it's very important that they receive real benefits from the government's reform," said Jim Yong Kim, President of the World Bank Group.
"Myanmar is among the poorest countries in the region. The needs of the people are great and the World Bank Group is working with partners to support government reform that will improve people's lives, especially the poor and vulnerable," said Cox, adding that it will help lay the foundation for broad economic growth, creating opportunities for all.
According to her, "the World Bank Grant will support a national community driven development program providing fund to people in local communities, including in border conflict areas. Community members will select development projects they need and transparency will ensure that everyone can track the use of fund."
The bank is also expanding technical assistance and providing global expertise to help the government deliver services to the people and attract responsible foreign investment, expand trade, manage its resources better and create more jobs and opportunities for people, Cox was quoted as saying.
Myanmar became a member of the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD) in 1952. The bank has approved no new lending since 1987. In 1998, the government went into arrears but has remained a member of the bank.
Cox and Finkeiston arrived in Myanmar Monday for inauguration of the World Bank office in the former capital before which she met Myanmar President U Thein Sein, cabinet members, parliament members including Aung San Suu Kyi in Nay Pyi Taw.
It was the the first visit by the World Bank senior leadership since Myanmar began undertaking reform.
Following the opening of the World Bank Office in Yangon, Manila-based Asian Development Bank (ADB) on Wednesday said it will also re-engage with Myanmar by opening an office in the country, claiming that 15 million people out of 60 million live in poverty in the country.
"Establishing an office in Myanmar allows us to deepen our understanding of the challenges facing the country, and how best to offer assistance to achieve inclusive and sustainable economic growth", said Stephen Groff, ADB Vice President for East Asia, Southeast Asia and the Pacific.
"It's crucial that we understand the reality facing Myanmar as we work with the government to formulate a partnership strategy for successful development and poverty reduction," he added.
ADB has not been operative in Myanmar since 1998, but the country, as a member of the Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS) program, has participated in the bank-assisted regional activities over the past two decades.
ADB recently accomplished its preliminary need assessment in the country in some key areas of transport, energy, agriculture and natural resources, education, and urban development, including water and sanitation.
ADB's restoration of operations is said to coordinate with other development partners and is based on resolution of arrears.
Before the ADB launches its program in Myanmar, the unpaid debts of the country to the bank are to be cleared, which reportedly amount to about 500 million U.S. dollars in addition to the 397 million dollars to the World Bank.
Meanwhile, foreign bank representatives offices were opened in Myanmar one after another bringing the total number of such bank offices based in the country to 20 which include those from Singapore, Bangladesh, China, France, Japan, Malaysia, Netherlands, Thailand, Cambodia, Brunei, Vietnam, South Korea, the United States and the United Kingdom.

Source: Xinhua