IFC clar­i­fies sta­tus of loan to Ba­gan ‘limbo’ ho­tel

The Myanmar Times - - Front Page - EI EI THU eiei­thu@mm­times.com – Ad­di­tional re­port­ing by Daniel de Carteret

The IFC says that fund­ing to a ho­tel de­vel­oper – whose Ba­gan project re­mains in limbo as au­thor­i­ties have deemed it too close to the tem­ples – is de­pen­dent on gov­ern­ment ap­proval.

THE In­ter­na­tional Fi­nance Cor­po­ra­tion’s fund­ing of a lo­cal ho­tel de­vel­oper whose Ba­gan tourism project re­mains in limbo is de­pen­dent on gov­ern­ment ap­proval, the IFC clar­i­fied yes­ter­day.

On Oc­to­ber 22 the IFC an­nounced a loan of US13.5 mil­lion to United In­ter­na­tional Group, which owns Amata Ho­tel Group, to ex­pand on its ho­tel devel­op­ments at Ba­gan and Inle lake.

U Win Aung, man­ag­ing di­rec­tor of United In­ter­na­tional Group, told The Myan­mar Times that the Ba­gan de­vel­op­ment, which is planned to have 144 rooms, was among some 42 ho­tels lo­cated near the his­toric site that has had its con­struc­tion sus­pended by the gov­ern­ment pend­ing a de­ci­sion on their sta­tus.

In 2013, the ar­chae­ol­ogy depart­ment gave the green light to the 42 projects, but they have since been told by the Re­li­gious Af­fairs and Cul­ture Min­istry’s Depart­ment of Ar­chae­ol­ogy, Na­tional Mu­seum and Li­brary to halt con­struc­tion leav­ing the ho­tels in limbo. The guest­houses are deemed too close to Ba­gan’s famed tem­ples, an is­sue that could hin­der ef­forts to achieve UNESCO’s World Her­itage list­ing at the his­toric site.

In an Oc­to­ber 22 press re­lease to an­nounce the United In­ter­na­tional Group loan the IFC did not make men­tion of the de­vel­oper’s project sus­pen­sion.

But in a state­ment yes­ter­day, the IFC’s coun­try man­ager for Myan­mar, Vikram Ku­mar, clar­i­fied that any IFC fund­ing would be de­pen­dent on gov­ern­ment per­mis­sion.

“IFC is pro­vid­ing fi­nanc­ing to United In­ter­na­tional Group for the de­vel­op­ment of new ho­tels both in Ba­gan and Inle re­gion, and IFC’s fi­nanc­ing is con­di­tional on all rel­e­vant gov­ern­ment ap­provals be­ing ob­tained,” he said via email.

“Tourism is an im­por­tant sec­tor for Myan­mar’s econ­omy as it in­creas­ingly con­trib­utes to eco­nomic di­ver­si­fi­ca­tion, sus­tain­able growth, and job cre­ation. IFC sup­ports the de­vel­op­ment of hos­pi­tal­ity projects which are com­mit­ted to adopt­ing in­ter­na­tional best prac­tices in op­er­a­tions and sus­tain­abil­ity.”

Con­tacted yes­ter­day, U Zaw Zaw Tun, the di­rec­tor for ar­chae­ol­ogy, na­tional mu­seum and li­brary, told The Myan­mar Times that the gov­ern­ment had not yet ar­rived on a de­ci­sion on the “limbo ho­tels”.

“We are look­ing for a win-win so­lu­tion for the ho­tels in Ba­gan but we don’t know how long it will take,” he said.

The min­istry said in May that the ho­tels would need to move to a ded­i­cated spe­cial zone af­ter 10 years.

This edict has not changed, U Zaw Zaw Tun said, but the min­istry con­tin­ued to have dis­cus­sions with all af­fected par­ties, and UNESCO, in hope of find­ing a dif­fer­ent ap­proach.

“Ba­gan is a place for all peo­ple and it could be­come a World Her­itage Site. That’s why we have to con­serve the area and make sure it is not im­pacted,” he said.

‘IFC’s fi­nanc­ing is con­di­tional on all rel­e­vant gov­ern­ment ap­provals be­ing ob­tained.’

Vikram Ku­mar IFC

Photo: Thiri Lu

Over 40 guest­houses and inns in Ba­gan have been told they have to move to a spe­cial zone, de­spite hav­ing been granted of­fi­cial per­mis­sion to build in 2013.

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