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ADB says starting reengagement process with Myanmar.

MANILA, June 26 Kyodo

The Asian Development Bank said Tuesday it has begun the process of reengagement with Myanmar, stressing the need for the multilateral bank to join other development agencies in helping the Southeast Asian country rebuild its economy.

The Manila-based bank said it sent Stephen Groff, its vice president for East Asia, Southeast Asia and the Pacific, to Myanmar on Tuesday, the first extended visit by ADB senior management since the country began undertaking reforms earlier this year.

"As Myanmar's pace of change accelerates, more foreign investors and tourists arrive, and development assistance is offered, it is crucial that we gain a first-hand understanding of Myanmar's goals and priorities," Groff said in a statement.

"ADB is beginning the process of reengagement with Myanmar and joining other development partners in helping lay the foundations for a brighter future in the country," he said.

During his four-day trip, the bank said Groff is expected to meet Myanmar President Thein Sein and other government ministers.

He will also meet with opposition parliamentarians, representatives of nongovernmental organizations, and private sector entities, the bank said.

In Myanmar, the bank said Groff will co-chair the Fourth Economic Corridors Forum of the Greater Mekong Subregion, which is considering steps needed to boost cross-border transport and trade corridors.

"While in Myanmar, Mr. Groff will focus on developments in a number of sectors, including transport, energy, agriculture and natural resources, post primary education, trade, investment and private sector development, urban development, and water supply and sanitation," the bank said.

Groff will also hold discussions with other government counterparts and development partners, who are expected to shed light on priority areas for future assistance.

The statement said that the ADB has not had operations in Myanmar since 1988. Myanmar is an original member of the ADB.

The resumption of ADB lending to Myanmar is ultimately subject to approval by its shareholders together with continued progress in the country's engagement with the international community, resolution of arrears, as well as allocation of Asian Development Fund resources.

At the close of the ADB annual meeting last May, ADB President Haruhiko Kuroda urged Myanmar to implement more political and economic reforms for Myanmar to attract more development assistance.

He said at the time that Myanmar "has a great potential." But he stressed that in order to harness its full potential Myanmar needs "to make not only political but (also) economic reforms, various reforms, and has to improve institutional capacity substantially."

Myanmar owes the ADB $500 million in arrears, prompting the bank to stop giving financial assistance to that country in the last 25 years.

Kuroda said that "unless and until" Myanmar settles that debt, the ADB cannot restart giving financial assistance.

The ADB has not provided any technical or financial assistance to Myanmar partly because the international community and the bank's shareholders "have not thought it's appropriate for the ADB to be closely engaged in Myanmar," Kuroda said.

However, Kuroda said that the ADB has been "indirectly" aiding Myanmar through the Greater Mekong Subregion program.
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Publication:Asian Economic News
Date:Jul 2, 2012
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