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World Bank Eyes ‘Enormous Potential’ in Myanmar



Kanthan Shankar, the World Bank’s country manager for Burma


MYANMAR – A World Bank official said Friday that Myanmar has “enormous potential” as it undergoes reforms, which have led the Washington-based lender to launch a drive to bring electricity to millions.

World Bank East Asia and Pacific vice president Axel van Trotsenburg, who visited this month to open the bank’s first office in Yangon since 1987, said he was “very, very encouraged” and sensed a feeling of optimism in Myanmar.

“All in all, we believe the country has enormous potential, provided the reforms are sustained,” van Trotsenburg told reporters.

“We see that they will require a lot of hard work, but also there will be solid support by the international community when those reforms are happening,” he said.

The World Bank has announced $245 million in assistance for priority needs of Myanmar, formerly known as Burma, once the “rice bowl” of Asia, but which remains desperately poor after decades under military rule.
In a project announced during van Trotsenburg’s visit to Myanmar, the World Bank is supporting the installation of gas turbines that aim to boost electricity production by two and a half compared to with the aging current sites.

Van Trotsenburg expected the effort to bring power to an additional five million people, lifting health, education and economic growth in a country where only one-quarter of the population now has access to electricity.
The World Bank last month also approved a $440 million zero-interest loan to Myanmar that will help the country improve its finances and pay back a bridge loan from Japan that allowed Yangon to clear its international arrears.

President Thein Sein launched a series of reforms after taking office in 2011, including freeing political prisoners, loosening censorship and allowing pro-democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi to enter parliament.

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