Thursday, August 16, 2012

World Bank to fund ‘model villages’ in Burmese townships

Thursday, 16 August 2012 13:10 Mizzima News

A World Bank development program in Burma plans to set up model villages in more than 300 townships, in addition to creating 15 plans to alleviate chronic poverty in rural areas.

The bank will provide up to US$ 80 million to fund the projects, official media reported on Wednesday.

Pamela Cox, a World Bank East Asia and Pacific vice president, at a press conference in Rangoon on August 1, 2012. The World Bank has pledged up to $85 million in development grants to Burma. Photo: Mizzima

Quoting Minister of National Planning and Economic Development Tin Naing Thein, the report said the funding was discussed by the minister in his report to a Planning Commission meeting in Naypyitaw on Tuesday, chaired by President Thein Sein.

On Aug. 1, the World Bank opened a country office in Rangoon, announcing preparation to grant $85 million to support Burmese reforms.

“Myanmar is among the poorest countries in the region. The need of the people are great and the World Bank Group is working with partners to support government reform that will improve people’s lives, especially the poor and vulnerable,” World Bank Group Vice President for East Asia and Pacific Ms. Pamela Cox said at the inaugural ceremony, adding that the bank will help lay the foundation for broad economic growth.

Cox said that Burma will have access to interest-free loans from the International Development Association (IDA), the World Bank's fund for the poorest countries, after it clears arrears of US$ 397 million to the World Bank.

The bank has approved no new lending to Burma since 1987. In 1998, the government went into arrears, but it has remained a member of the bank.

The World Bank said its new grants, which must be presented to the bank’s board, would center on programs to help communities invest in schools, roads, water or other projects, including in border ethnic areas.

Community members will select the development projects they want and rules will be put in place to ensure transparency in releasing the funds, the World Bank said in a statement.

World Bank officials said the grants are intended to build confidence in the country’s reform process.

The World Bank and the International Financial Corporation are putting together an interim strategy with the government to guide the World Bank's work as it prepares for a full country program, it said.

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