Ja­pan do­nates big to Myan­mar

Ja­pan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe yes­ter­day an­nounced an 800 bil­lion yen (US$7.7 bil­lion) pack­age from both the public and pri­vate sec­tors at a joint press con­fer­ence fol­low­ing talks in Tokyo. Daw Aung San Suu Kyi is in Ja­pan from Novem­ber 1 to 5.

The Myanmar Times - - Front Page -

JA­PANESE Prime Minister Shinzo Abe yes­ter­day an­nounced nearly US$8 bil­lion in aid, loans and in­vest­ment to pro­mote de­vel­op­ment and rec­on­cil­i­a­tion in Myan­mar af­ter talks with its de facto leader Daw Aung San Suu Kyi.

The 800 bil­lion yen ($7.7 bil­lion) pack­age from both the public and pri­vate sec­tors is to be spread over five years, Mr Abe said.

“This is de­signed to help Myan­mar’s na­tion-build­ing through its bal­anced de­vel­op­ment,” Mr Abe told reporters in a joint ap­pear­ance with Daw Aung San Suu Kyi af­ter their talks.

A to­tal of 40 bil­lion yen is ear­marked to pro­mote amity in ar­eas in­hab­ited by eth­nic mi­nori­ties, which has been emerg­ing from years of mil­i­tary dic­ta­tor­ship and eth­nic con­flict.

“With this aid, it is our hope that the fruits of rec­on­cil­i­a­tion will be spread across Myan­mar and be fur­ther pro­moted,” Mr Abe said.

Daw Aung San Suu Kyi re­peat­edly thanked Ja­pan for help­ing her coun­try.

“Such as­sis­tance will help Myan­mar build peace and de­velop it­self,” said Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, who ar­rived in Tokyo on Novem­ber 1 for a five-day visit.

The state coun­sel­lor and for­eign minister has pur­sued whirl­wind diplo­macy since her party took power six months ago, in­clud­ing vis­its to South­east Asian neigh­bours as well as key al­lies China, the United States and In­dia.

Her trav­els are aimed at at­tract­ing eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment and in­fra­struc­ture aid to re­build the re­source-rich coun­try af­ter decades of mil­i­tary rule, eco­nomic iso­la­tion and civil con­flict.

Daw Aung San Suu Kyi’s five-day trip to Ja­pan is but the lat­est move in a re­la­tion­ship that can ben­e­fit both coun­tries as their re­la­tion­ship con­tin­ues to deepen, an­a­lysts say.

While in Ja­pan, the state coun­sel­lor is ex­pected to dis­cuss de­vel­op­ment projects and the peace process, in­clud­ing the con­flict rav­aging north­ern Rakhine State, which has been sub­jected to a me­dia black­out within Myan­mar.

Daw Aung San Suu Kyi did not touch on the mil­i­tary oper­a­tions in north­ern Rakhine State dur­ing the press con­fer­ence, but a Ja­panese of­fi­cial brief­ing reporters on her talks with Mr Abe para­phrased her as say­ing Myan­mar would deal with the prob­lem un­der the law.

Though the state coun­sel­lor has al­ready vis­ited China, the United States and In­dia since tak­ing power fol­low­ing elec­tions a year ago, nei­ther Ja­panese nor Myan­mar sources have com­mented on sug­ges­tions that an ear­lier visit would have bet­ter re­flected the im­por­tance of Ja­pan to Myan­mar’s eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment.

An­a­lysts have gen­er­ally wel­comed the visit, cit­ing the dif­fer­ences be­tween Ja­panese and Chi­nese in­vest­ments in Myan­mar. Ja­pan is not seen as an ex­ploiter, and tends to in­vest in large-scale man­u­fac­tur­ing and in­fra­struc­ture rather than ex­trac­tive in­dus­tries.

Po­lit­i­cal and eco­nomic an­a­lyst U Than Soe said Ja­pan had a good record in in­vest­ing in Asia, and of­fered Myan­mar sig­nif­i­cant op­por­tu­ni­ties that Nay Pyi Taw should be pre­pared to seize.

“Myan­mar has a large work­force and plenty of land. Daw Aung San Suu Kyi should in­vite in­vest­ments from Ja­pan dur­ing her visit,” he said.

In or­der to cre­ate a more wel­com­ing en­vi­ron­ment for such in­vest­ment, Myan­mar would be ex­pected to strengthen its na­tional in­sti­tu­tions and leg­isla­tive frame­works, im­prove its in­fra­struc­ture, re­solve land own­er­ship dis­putes eq­ui­tably and, per­haps most im­por­tant, re­store peace to the coun­try as a whole.

The re­cent de­ci­sion of US Pres­i­dent Barack Obama to lift US sanc­tions has also high­lighted the need for Myan­mar to re­in­force its bank­ing and fi­nan­cial sec­tor. Long-term in­ter­na­tional loans should be used to cre­ate a more com­pet­i­tive in­fra­struc­ture, in terms of roads, bridges, wa­ter and elec­tric­ity, says U Than Soe.

The Myan­mar In­vest­ment Com­mis­sion has al­ready ap­proved 88 di­rect in­vest­ments from Ja­pan worth a to­tal of US$674.227 mil­lion. Of these, 77, worth $571.532 mil­lion, are al­ready in op­er­a­tion. A fur­ther 19 Ja­panese busi­nesses have in­vested in­di­rectly via other coun­tries, to the ex­tent of $983.483 mil­lion.

Ad­di­tion­ally, there are 24 in­vest­ments in Thi­lawa spe­cial eco­nomic zone that do not fall un­der MIC ju­ris­dic­tion, worth $251.25 mil­lion, and fur­ther in­puts are ex­pected in the case of Dawei SEZ, in which Ja­pan also has a sig­nif­i­cant in­ter­est.

“Ja­pan op­er­ates Dawei port,” said Daw Aye Aye Win, a direc­tor gen­eral in the Min­istry of In­dus­try. “We’ve paid com­pen­sa­tion for land and cre­ated job op­por­tu­ni­ties there. We look for­ward to fur­ther im­prove­ments across the coun­try.”

Ja­pan has up­graded rail­way lines, wa­ter sup­ply net­works and other in­fra­struc­ture in Myan­mar, sup­ported the im­prove­ment of laws and poli­cies in in­dus­try, im­proved hu­man re­sources through train­ing pro­grams and pro­vided loans for small- and medi­um­sized busi­nesses.

The Ja­pan In­ter­na­tional Co­op­er­a­tion Agency also drew up the Master Plan for the coun­try’s de­vel­op­ment in 2011, when it be­gan to of­fer Of­fi­cial De­vel­op­ment As­sis­tance (ODA) to Myan­mar. Ac­cord­ing to the SME de­vel­op­ment depart­ment, Ja­pan will lend K5 bil­lion at 0.01 per­cent in­ter­est, of which Myan­mar has al­ready re­ceived K3.5 bil­lion, with the rest to come next year. SMEs are at the heart of the Myan­mar econ­omy, said Daw Aye Aye Win.

“As our coun­try con­tin­ues to de­velop its in­dus­trial sec­tor, links with Ja­pan can only strengthen. Now there is a gap, and we must con­tinue to im­prove our small and medium en­ter­prises,” she said.

Most of the fac­to­ries in Myan­mar are Ja­panese-owned, and lo­cated in Thi­lawa port.

U Maung Maung Lay, of the Mer­chants and In­dus­trial En­trepreneurs As­so­ci­a­tion, said Ja­pan had greatly as­sisted Myan­mar with loans.

Ac­cord­ing to the Min­istry of Com­merce, Ja­pan-Myan­mar trad­ing amounted to $800 mil­lion in the 201112 fis­cal year, ris­ing to a high of $2305 mil­lion in 2014-15. Last year, it fell to $1845, spurring fears of a fur­ther re­duc­tion this year.

Fi­nance Minister U Kyaw Win is set to lead a group of 32 en­trepreneurs in bank­ing, con­struc­tion and other fields to dis­cuss the sit­u­a­tion with their Ja­panese coun­ter­parts dur­ing the Tokyo visit. – AFP and Chan Mya Htwe, trans­la­tion by Win Thaw Tar and Khine Thazin Han

PHOTO: AFP

Photo: AFP

State Coun­sel­lor and For­eign Minister Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and Ja­pan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe end a joint press an­nounce­ment in Tokyo yes­ter­day.

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