MPs ques­tion re­liance on for­eign loans

The Myanmar Times - - News - PYAE THET PHYO pyae­thet­phyo@mm­times.com

LAW­MAK­ERS have raised con­cerns over a pro­posed US$283 mil­lion loan from the Ja­pan In­ter­na­tional Co­op­er­a­tion Agency (JICA) for the con­struc­tion of a bridge over the Bago River.

Lower house law­maker Daw Thet Thet Khine (NLD; Dagon) said for­eign loans should only be ac­cepted where ab­so­lutely nec­es­sary.

“Some projects in the in­ter­ests of the coun­try can only be funded with for­eign loans as they are not com­mer­cially vi­able. Oth­ers can be im­ple­mented in a cost-ef­fec­tive way through co­op­er­a­tion be­tween the govern­ment and the pri­vate sec­tor,” she said. “This will make our coun­try free from debt.”

Daw Thet Thet Khine’s fis­cally con­ser­va­tive ap­proach was in­formed by a re­cent re­vi­sion of the coun­try’s debtto-GDP ra­tio to 4.97 per­cent from an ini­tial es­ti­mate of 3.91pc for the 201617 fis­cal year, she said.

MP U Aung Hlaing Win (NLD; Min­gal­adon) echoed her ob­jec­tions.

“Who will re­pay this loan? It is rea­son­able for the govern­ment to take on such debts for an ed­u­ca­tion project that will benefit ev­ery­one but it is un­fair if the peo­ple are ex­pected to re­pay the cost of what is es­sen­tially a com­mer­cial project, as not ev­ery­one will benefit from it,” he said, call­ing on the govern­ment to en­sure that all cit­i­zens benefit from govern­ment projects equally.

“If the govern­ment wants to bridge the gap be­tween rich and poor, it should pri­ori­tise fund­ing to the least-de­vel­oped ar­eas ... If eth­nic groups do not feel they are re­ceiv­ing equal op­por­tu­ni­ties, they will be dis­sat­is­fied,” he said.

The JICA loan was sub­mit­ted in a pro­posal from the Min­istry of Con­struc­tion last week. It would fund the con­struc­tion of the “Than­lyin Bridge No 3”, which is hoped will help re­duce traf­fic con­ges­tion around Yan­gon and Thi­lawa spe­cial eco­nomic zone.

The 40-year, $283 mil­lion loan has a pro­posed in­ter­est rate of 0.01pc with a 10-year de­fer­ment of ini­tial pay­ment. The loan was among the $7.7 bil­lion aid pack­age an­nounced by Ja­panese Prime Min­is­ter Shinzo Abe ear­lier this month.

MPs are set to dis­cuss the pro­posed loan fur­ther be­fore putting it to a vote. – Trans­la­tion by Zar Zar Soe

and Win Thaw Tar

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