Nay Pyi Taw, Dec 22: The Myanmar government is looking forward to restart development projects and accelerate bilateral economic and technical cooperation with China, its largest trading ally following disruptions caused by the pandemic and recent social unrest.
The Ministry of Information (MOI) and Ministry of Investment and Foreign Economic Relations (MIFER) in a joint statement said that Myanmar enjoys a special ‘paukphaw’ or kinship with its close neighbour and has received substantial economic and technical support from China over 71 years of bilateral ties.
Having achieved national stability in recent months, and with the health situation stabilising after receiving substantial vaccines from China, a major priority for Myanmar is to implement projects involving PRC development assistance, amounting to 3.8 billion renminbi (RMB).
Myanmar’s State Administration Council (SAC) has reviewed an original list of 97 projects that were proposed by the previous government late last year in response to China’s offer of four billion RMB in development assistance to Myanmar.
The offer was announced during President Xi Jinping’s visit on Jan 17-18 last year.
Following the review, the SAC has consulted with various Ministries to revise the list so as to prioritise projects that can be effectively implemented and which are better suited to the current needs of Myanmar.
The SAC also reviewed and revised 15 projects under a separate 200 million RMB PRC grant specifically dedicated for Rakhine State.
The latter grant involves projects related to the environment and improving medical access and rural transport.
The government appreciates these corporate social responsibility initiatives by the PRC which will contribute to the success of the China-Myanmar Economic Corridor (CMEC).
The CMEC includes road and rail infrastructure stretching 1,700 km from Kunming in China’s Yunnan Province through several regions in Myanmar to Kyaukpyu along the Bay of Bengal.
The site of a proposed Special Economic Zone (SEZ) Deep Sea Project, Kyaukpyu is of special significance for infrastructure-related and economic cooperation between the two countries.
The Kyaukpyu SEZ is a priority project revised and shortlisted by SAC from a list of 33 bilateral agreements signed during President Xi’s visit.
Prior to 2020, China had agreed to provide grants totalling 4.9 billion RMB to Myanmar between 2014 to 2019.
Over this period, one project has been completed, 12 are ongoing and 18 are at proposal stage, with a combined value of 6.01 billion RMB.
Implementation of the revised list of PRC-funded development programmes and related projects in the coming months will enhance bilateral cooperation after nearly two years of disruption caused by the pandemic and domestic issues, the two Ministers said.
They said the SAC is confident that bilateral cooperation to improve infrastructure, especially in less developed parts of the country, and to create jobs will enhance economic recovery as Myanmar prepares for multi-party national elections which are scheduled to be held by August 2023.
To further improve bilateral cooperation, the Central Bank of Myanmar (CBM) has agreed to a pilot project starting next year to accept the RMB as an official settlement currency for border trade.
This settlement, which will substantially improve border trade especially for perishable goods such as fresh agricultural products, will be facilitated by three banks – Myanmar’s state-owned Myanmar Economic Bank and the PRC’s Bank of China (BOC) and Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (ICBC). This decision follows the recent relaxation of travel restrictions at two Myanmar-PRC border checkpoints after COVID-19 infection rates were reduced nationwide.
Myanmar’s pandemic control has been greatly supported by vaccines donated by or procured from PRC pharmaceutical giants Sinovac and Sino Pharm.
The Government remains on target to vaccinate at least 50 per cent of Myanmar’s population above the age of 18 by the end of Dec with the majority of vaccines used in Myanmar originating from China.
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