The World Bank has approved US $80 million toward community-driven projects in Burma's rural areas. The move came as the bank's Board of Executive Directors endorsed an Interim Strategy for Myanmar in Washington on Thursday.
At the same time, the bank's East Asia and Pacific regional vice-president, Pamela Cox, said the World Bank was also looking at lending about $165 million in new project commitments for Burma over the next 18 months—but only if the country's arrears had been settled.
“The Strategy will guide the World Bank Group’s work in the country for the next 18 months, focusing on accelerating poverty reduction by helping reform institutions to deliver better services to people during this critical transition period,” a statement said.
Under the plan, the World Bank Group said it will help the government improve economic governance and create conditions for growth and jobs by providing policy advice and technical assistance in three main areas: public financial management; regulatory reform—to provide access to finance for microfinance borrowers and small and medium enterprises; and in private sector development—promoting economic growth and job creation.
“Our strategy has a strong focus on inclusive development and reforms that create real opportunities for all the people of Myanmar,” said Cox. “Transitions take time, but we are committed to working with all our partners to ensure that poor people start to feel the benefits of reforms quickly, especially through better services from the government.”
World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim said he was “heartened” by the reforms that have been taking place in Burma, and encouraged Naypyidaw to “continue to push forward with their efforts.”
In Thursday’s statement, the World Bank said its $80-million National Community Driven Development Project would “deliver quick benefits to the poor and vulnerable” and would “empower rural communities to choose investments they need most, such as roads, bridges, irrigation systems, schools, health clinics or rural markets.”
The project is scheduled to be initiated in 15 townships, one in each state and region. Communities will be instructed to elect representative councils that will identify priority needs, prepare development plans, design projects, contract materials and labor, and transparently manage and report on the use of project funds, the bank’s statement said.
The World Bank noted that it was working with the Japanese government and the Asian Development Bank to clear Burma’s arrears by early 2013, which would enable the country to access International Development Association resources and resume a full country program.
Meanwhile, a spokesperson for the International Monetary Fund said it will send a mission to Burma in early November for talks on a possible staff-monitored program, according to The Associated Press.
EDITOR"S NOTE: This article has been amended since its publication on Friday, November 2, 2012.