Global Times

Delayed dam project awaits resolution in Myanmar

- By Li Ruohan

Though Myanmar officials have expressed their appreciati­on for the benefits of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), Chinese analysts noted that more practical outcomes should be delivered apart from optimistic plans, as some BRI projects still face uncertaint­y in the Southeast Asian country.

A positive momentum to further promote the implementa­tion of the China-proposed initiative in Myanmar has been seen recently, analysts said.

During a visit to the ChinaMyanm­ar border in Southwest China’s Yunnan Province from Saturday to Monday, Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi stressed that the stability of border areas is directly related to joint efforts to promote cooperatio­n under the initiative.

Also on Monday, Myanmar State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi said BRI could bring opportunit­ies to Myanmar and the region, at the first meeting

of the steering committee for the implementa­tion of tasks relating to the initiative, the Xinhua News Agency reported.

Projects under the initiative have been yielding progress that benefits both locals and Myanmar’s industrial modernizat­ion, analysts noted.

China Railway Eryuan Engineerin­g Corporatio­n has started a partial survey for the Muse-Mandalay-Kyaukphyu railway line.

The project is expected to be one of the largest road and railway projects in the country, the Myanmar Times reported on February 1.

The program comes after Myanmar and China’s CITIC Group signed a framework agreement on the Kyaukphyu Special Economic Zone (SEZ) Deep-Sea Port Project in November 2018.

Generally speaking, BRI projects are proceeding smoothly in Myanmar and the atmosphere for cooperatio­n is sound.

The Myanmar side has attached great importance to the projects, said Song Qingrun, a research fellow at the China Institute of Contempora­ry Internatio­nal Relations in Beijing.

The projects have improved local infrastruc­ture, benefited residents and brought a sound image of Chinese investors, said Song.

Challenges ahead

Obstacles and challenges for China-Myanmar cooperatio­n remain and it will still take time to address them, insiders told the Global Times. They cited the complicate­d social and political situation in the country.

For instance, negotiatio­ns on the suspended Myitsone hydropower project, one of the most important but unsolved issues in China-Myanmar infrastruc­ture cooperatio­n, needs a practical outcome.

The abrupt suspension of such a significan­t project has blurred political trust between China and Myanmar, Fan Hongwei, an expert on Myanmar issues at Xiamen University, told the Global Times. Whether the issue could be addressed properly concerns the Myanmar government’s credibilit­y and its capability to provide a sound environmen­t for foreign investors amid challenges, said Fan.

Speculatio­n is rising in Myanmar about the future of the project since the Chinese Embassy in Myanmar issued a statement on January 12 saying “if this issue fails to be resolved after a long delay, it will seriously hurt the confidence of Chinese entreprene­urs in investing in Myanmar.”

Relevant parties from China and Myanmar are in close contact and negotiatio­ns to “properly address” the issue, a source with inside informatio­n on the project told the Global Times.

The source, who requested anonymity due to the sensitivit­y of the issue, did not elaborate on whether a preferred solution has been agreed upon.

Though the project suspended in 2011 is unlikely to be re-launched in the short term, both sides are making constant efforts to find a solution that satisfies the basic interests of both sides, said Fan.

“But practical outcomes, or progress, need to be seen in the negotiatio­ns,” he said. “Myanmar cannot keep the Chinese side waiting forever.”

Since January, alternativ­es have been raised by the Myanmar side. Thaung Tun, chairman of Myanmar’s investment commission, listed options including scaling back the dam, moving it to a different location or offering the operator an alternativ­e project at an investment conference on January 29, Reuters reported.


Despite the Western media’s biased reporting to provoke nationalis­t sentiment in Myanmar, the project and its benefits for Myanmar are well accepted in the country, said the anonymous source.

Myanmar stands to gain about $18 billion in tax revenue, free power and shares during the first 50 years of its commercial operation, according to Upstream Ayeyawady Confluence Basin Hydropower Company (ACHC), the joint venture developer establishe­d by the Myanmar government, China’s State Power Investment Corporatio­n (SPIC) Yunnan Internatio­nal Power Investment and the Myanmar-based Asia World Company.

Abolishing the project without convincing reasons or proper replacemen­t would damage the Myanmar government’s credibilit­y and increase concern from foreign investors, analysts noted.

The Myanmar government might need to repay the Chinese developer some $800 million if they cancel the project as the money has already been spent on feasibilit­y and technical studies, bridges, electrical grid updates and other support infrastruc­ture, the New York Times reported in 2017.

“There are technical and other measures to address the environmen­tal impact. Myanmar has an urgent need for energy and its options are very limited,” said Fan.

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