World Bank officials said on Wednesday in Burma the bank will make US$ 85 million in grants available to Burma to support democratic reforms.
World Bank officials opened a new country office in Yangon on Wednesday. Earier, world bank offials met with Burmese President Thein Sein and other key leaders. The grants are contingent with Burma eliminating its arrears owed to the bank totally US$ 397 million.
“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,” said World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim in a statement. “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.”
The World Bank and the Asian Development Bank pulled out of Burma two decades ago because of pressure from the U.S. and other global leaders who wanted to penalize the former military dictatorship for its actions in quelling peaceful demonstrations with killings, arrests and imprisonments. Since the US, the EU and other western nations have lifted or eased sanctions, international financial institutions are now returning to do business in Burma.
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.
The World Bank 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.
World Bank officials said Kanthan Shankar, who has experience working in conflict and post-conflict environments including the West Bank and Kosovo, has been appointed Burma country manager for the bank.
Charles Schneider, who has worked in the private sector with experience in several Southeast Asian countries, has been appointed IFC resident representative.