(Mizzima) – Burma owes more than US$ 11 billion in foreign debt in loans that were made prior to 1988, its finance minister told Parliament this week.
The disclosure to lawmakers is a rare example of transparency from the secretive government, which during the past year has been pushing a number of democratic reforms.
The finance minister told lawmakers on Tuesday that Burma has begun to talk to Japan, Italy and other institutions about repayment.
Finance Minister Hla Tun told MPs that $8.4 billion of the $11 billion external debt was run up between 1962 and 1988 under the socialist government of General Ne Win.
The World Bank, the Asian Development Bank and Germany were also owed several hundred million dollars each, he said.
Since the military authorities crushed the 1988 pro-democracy uprising, Western sanctions and financial mismanagement have taken a further toll on the country’s finances. For the past several years it has run deficits.
China had lent Burma the most in the post-1988 era, at about $2 billion, the minister was quoted as saying.
In 2009, Burma's national debt was estimated at $7.37 billion. Details of the country’s budget are not made public.
While its finances are currently in shambles, an IMF report in January said Burma could be Southeast Asia’s next financial frontier, because of its vast energy resources and untapped work force, many of whom speak English.
Lawmakers are now engaged in approving the country’s annual budget in Naypyitaw, the capital.