The World Bank Group is stepping up its support for reforms in Myanmar and opening a new country office. The Bank is preparing to present to its Board up to $85 million in grants to benefit men, women and children through community driven development programs which will allow communities to decide whether to invest in schools, roads, water or other projects.
“We are committed to eradicating poverty and the new office opening in Myanmar will allow us to reach some of the poorest people in East Asia. They have been cut off from the global economy for too long and it’s very important that they receive real benefits from the government’s reforms,” said Jim Yong Kim, World Bank Group President.
World Bank Vice President for East Asia and Pacific Pamela Cox announced the grants in Yangon where she opened a new World Bank Group office jointly with the International Finance Corporation Vice President for Asia Pacific, Karin Finkelston.
“Myanmar is among the poorest countries in the region. The needs of the people are great – and the World Bank Group is working with partners to support government reforms that will improve people’s lives, especially the poor and vulnerable,” said Ms. Cox. “This will help lay the foundation for broad economic growth, creating opportunities for all.”
Ms. Cox and Ms. Finkelston met with President U Thein Sein, cabinet members, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, and other members of parliament. This was the first visit by Bank senior leadership since Myanmar began undertaking reforms.
The World Bank grants will support a national community driven development program providing funds to people in local communities, including in border conflict areas. Community members will select development projects they need and transparency will ensure that everyone can track the use of funds.
The grants are intended to build confidence in the reform process. A recent World Bank development report on fragile and conflict affected countries stresses the importance of generating real economic benefits for people in fragile situations to increase the prospects for lasting peace.
The Bank is also expanding technical assistance and providing global expertise to help the Government deliver services to the people. The Bank is now conducting economic research in Myanmar to gain a better understanding of the extent of poverty, to help expand and modernize the financial system, and enhance the business environment.
“Actions in these areas will help the government attract responsible foreign investment, expand trade, manage its resources better and create more jobs and opportunities for people,” said Ms. Cox.
IFC, the member of the World Bank Group focused exclusively on private sector development, has begun assessments in areas critical to private sector growth such as access to finance, investment climate, and infrastructure. The results of these assessments will form the basis of IFC’s future program in Myanmar.
“As we have witnessed in other economies in transition, the private sector plays a critical role in job creation and in providing the means for all to benefit from economic growth,” said Ms. Finkelston. “We are committed to helping the people of Myanmar in the reform process and to supporting the private sector to create jobs and opportunities for businesses to grow.”
As a multilateral financial institution with 188 member countries, the World Bank will coordinate with other development partners to ensure the needs of the people of Myanmar are met effectively.
• Myanmar 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 $397 million to the World Bank.
• The World Bank Group is working on a new “Interim Strategy” with the Government of Myanmar and development partners, which will guide the Bank’s work as it prepares for a full country program.
• Mr. Kanthan Shankar has been appointed Myanmar Country Manager to lead the World Bank team in the country. Shankar has over 15 years of experience working in conflict and post-conflict environments, including in Timor-Leste, West Bank, Gaza and Kosovo.
• Mr. Charles Schneider has been appointed IFC Resident Representative to lead development of its program in Myanmar. Schneider has over 15 years of private sector experience including in Southeast Asia where he has worked in Vietnam, Cambodia and Lao PDR.
• Myanmar became a member of the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD) in 1952. The Bank has approved no new lending since 1987. In 1998, the Government went into arrears but has remained a member of the Bank.