MPs question reliance on foreign loans
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