New bridge set to boost China-Myan­mar trade The con­struc­tion of a new road and bridge near a rail­way viaduct in north­ern Shan State is ex­pected to sig­nif­i­cantly boost the China-Myan­mar bor­der trade, busi­ness rep­re­sen­ta­tives in Man­dalay and Muse say.

The Myanmar Times - - Front Page - CHAN MYA HTWE, YEE YWAL MYINT busi­[email protected]­times.com

THE con­struc­tion of a new road and bridge near the ex­ist­ing Goke Hteik rail­way viaduct in west­ern Shan State will be­gin this year, the Min­istry of Con­struc­tion has an­nounced.

The ma­jor in­fra­struc­ture pro­ject along the Man­dalay-Muse road, a sig­nif­i­cant bor­der-trade route, is ex­pected to sig­nif­i­cantly boost the trans­porta­tion of goods be­tween China and Myan­mar once it is com­pleted.

The Gote Twin sec­tion of the road be­tween Nawng­cho and Goke Hteik, along the Man­dalay-Muse road, was built dur­ing colo­nial times and the rail bridge on the route is now over 100 years old.

The road is also nar­row and has many curves and turns. Cur­rently, trucks can take up to three hours to travel the Goke Twin stretch. Dur­ing the rainy sea­son, trucks can skid and cause traf­fic jams, said U Sai Kyaw, gen­eral sec­re­tary of Rice Mer­chants As­so­ci­a­tion of Man­dalay, adding that the stretch is one of the ar­eas that see the high­est num­ber of ac­ci­dents in west­ern Shan State.

“When­ever an ac­ci­dent hap­pens along the Gote Twin stretch, traf­fic con­ges­tion as long as six to 10 hours can oc­cur, se­ri­ously de­lay­ing the flow of goods,” U Sai Kyaw said.

Se­cond road, bridge

To solve the is­sues, the gov­ern­ment is plan­ning to build a new road and bridge con­nect­ing Nawng­cho and Gote Hteik, the min­istry said.

The Min­istry of Con­struc­tion, lo­cal com­pany Ori­en­tal High­way Co, China Har­bour En­gi­neer­ing Co Ltd, and China Com­mu­ni­ca­tions Con­struc­tion Co Ltd, will build the pro­ject, ex­pected to cost more than US$100 mil­lion (K152.2 bil­lion) on a build-op­er­ate-trans­fer (BOT) ba­sis.

China Har­bour En­gi­neer­ing Ltd will build the new Goke Hteik bridge while Ori­en­tal High­way will build the road por­tion of the pro­ject.

The bridge, cross­ing the Nam Pan stream along the Nawng­cho- Goke Hteik road sec­tion, will be 887 me­tres long. The de­sign will fea­ture cable stays and four lanes for ve­hi­cle traf­fic.

The to­tal length of the road and bridge will be 19.3 kilo­me­tres short­en­ing the ex­ist­ing route by 6.8 kilo­me­tres. As the new road will have bet­ter sur­faces and fewer sharp curves, traf­fic con­ges­tion and ac­ci­dents are ex­pected to be greatly re­duced, the min­istry said, adding that travel time along the stretch is ex­pected to be short­ened by at least 45 min­utes once the work is com­pleted in 2022.

“Ori­en­tal High­way Co main­tains the Man­dalay-Lashio-Muse road sec­tion and has ex­panded the KitkaiMuse route to four-lane road on a BOT ba­sis, but the road can still be dan­ger­ous cur­rently be­cause the Goke Twin sec­tion has not been im­proved yet,” said U Win Aung Khant, chair of the Muse High­way Freight For­warders As­so­ci­a­tion.

About time

“The pro­ject should have been started ear­lier. The cost and time it takes for ve­hi­cles to travel this road amounts to losses for the coun­try. We just want it to be fin­ished as soon as pos­si­ble,” said Man­dalay oil mer­chant U San Tun Lwin.

Although small trucks with loads of up to 17 tonnes used to be al­lowed on the Man­dalay-Muse road in the past, the gov­ern­ment has low­ered the limit to 15 tonnes in or­der to re­duce stresses on the bridges along the road, he said.

As the Goke Hteik bridge pro­ject is of great im­por­tance to the coun­try’s trade and com­merce, peo­ple in the busi­ness com­mu­nity are urg­ing that it built ac­cord­ing to in­ter­na­tional stan­dards.

“In the con­struc­tion sec­tor, Myan­mar lacks cer­tain mod­ern ca­pa­bil­i­ties, so it is ad­vis­able for the coun­try to im­ple­ment the pro­ject with the aid of mod­ern tech­nol­ogy, and it is nec­es­sary to strictly in­clude the dura­bil­ity of the bridge in the con­tract,” said U San Tun Lwin.

“There were bridge pro­jects with flaws un­der the for­mer ad­min­is­tra­tion and if the cur­rent gov­ern­ment can clamp down on cor­rup­tion, Myan­mar could pos­sess bridges of global stan­dards,” he added.

“There must not be any weak­ness in terms of the bridge’s strength. I wel­come this pro­ject. Whether the con­struc­tion com­pa­nies are from China or South Ko­rea, I want to see the de­vel­op­ment of our coun­try with­out only look­ing to the prof­its,” he said.

Myan­mar has rat­i­fied to join the Eco­nomic Cor­ri­dor pro­ject which is a part of China’s Belt and Road Ini­tia­tive (BRI). The Eco­nomic Cor­ri­dor pro­ject in­cludes rail­way and road pro­jects that will pass through Myan­mar.

More growth

With the re­cent pol­icy changes and in­vest­ments in in­fra­struc­ture from BRI, Myan­mar is fore­cast to en­joy a ro­bust eco­nomic growth from a re­gional and global stand­point,” an­a­lysts from Sin­ga­pore’s OCBC Bank wrote in a re­cent re­port to its bro­ker­age clients.

Some of the BRI pro­jects are al­ready start­ing to roll in. Af­ter more than two years of ne­go­ti­a­tions, the gov­ern­ment and China’s state-owned CITIC Group on No­vem­ber 8 agreed to pro­ceed with the con­struc­tion of a deep-sea port in Kyauk­phyu, Rakhine State, as part of the BRI.

An­other BRI pro­ject in­cludes the con­struc­tion of the Muse-Man­dalay rail­way line. This pro­ject aims to con­nect Ruli East Rail­way Sta­tion in China to Muse, Larshoe, Kyaukme, and Pyin Oo Lwin in Man­dalay with 43.5 kilo­me­tres of rail­way track. A fea­si­bil­ity study for the pro­ject is ex­pected to be com­pleted this year.

“These BRI pro­jects can help to im­prove con­nec­tiv­ity within Myan­mar and with the re­gion, and have the po­ten­tial to achieve pos­i­tive spillover ef­fects on trade op­por­tu­ni­ties if bar­ri­ers on trade fa­cil­i­ta­tion are over­come,” OCBC said.

China’s in­vest­ments in Myan­mar are com­ing on­stream at a time when FDI ap­pears to be wan­ing. Dur­ing the first half of this year, ap­proved FDI to­taled just US$1.7 bil­lion com­pared to US$4.1 bil­lion dur­ing the same pe­riod in the pre­vi­ous fis­cal year.

Photo: Chan Mya Htwe

Photo: Chan Mya Htwe

The gov­ern­ment is plan­ning to build a new road and bridge con­nect­ing Nawng­cho and Gote Hteik (pic­tured). The ex­ist­ing Goke Hteik bridge is now over 100 years old.

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