World Bank Pledges $2B for Burma’s Health, Energy Sectors

World Bank President Jim Yong Kim (C) talks with Burma Health Minister Dr. Pe Thet Khin (L) during his visit to the North Dagon Township Hospital in Rangoon Jan. 26, 2014. (Photo: Reuters)

RANGOON — The World Bank has promised US$2 billion to Burma in loans, aid and investment it is hoped will improve the country’s ailing energy infrastructure and patchy health care provision.

The World Bank returned to Burma last year after not lending to the country for 26 years, and the Bank’s president, Jim Yong Kim, is currently on his first visit to Burma.

Jim Yong Kim on Sunday visited to the North Dagon Township Hospital in Rangoon, along with Burmese Health Minister Dr. Pe Thet Khin. During a press conference, Jim Yong Kim said the program will include projects should help poor people in Burma.

“Two of the major efforts will be energy and health,” he said.

A statement from the World Bank said the funding was a sign of recognition that Burma was reforming after decades of military dictatorship. The aid package, which includes soft loans, grants and investment, will involve various agencies in the World Bank Group—including the International Development Association (IDA) and the International Finance Cooperation.

Of the $2 billion, half will go to expanding electricity generation, transmission and distribution in Burma, where more than 70 percent of people do not have reliable electricity, according to the statement. The Bank will support the development of a National Electrification Plan, and promote reforms to make private sector participation sustainable, it said.

After Japan helped Burma to write off about its Gen Ne Win-era debt to the institution, the World bank in September announced its first financing to the country for decades—an interest free loan of $140 million to improve a power plant in Mon State.

Some $200 million of IDA funding will go toward making access to health care universal in Burma by 2030, said the World Bank president.

“As a medical doctor, I am so interested in this project,” Jim Yong Kim said.

About 75 percent of people in rural Burma lack access to health care, according to the World Bank.

Dr. Pe Thet Khin said universal health care coverage was a priority for the government, but said achieving this by 2030 would be a challenge.

“It’s takes a long time [to achieve universal health care coverage]. Even some European countries took more than 60 years to cover their whole nation. The shortest time was in Thailand and South Korea, they took only 40 years,” he said.

“For us [Burma], experts have drawn up a program for 20 years, but it might be too short and fast. But if we can learn from others’ mistakes, we can do it.”

He also encouraged international health organizations to work collaboratively with the government toward the goal of improving health care in Burma.

“To reach the target, there shouldn’t be overlap,” he said.

Dr. Pe Thet Khin said the government was already increasing its health budget, which despite recent increases remains one of the smallest in the world, relative to the size of the population.

A commission led by President Thein Sein has proposed that 3.38 percent of the national budget goes on health in the 2014-15 fiscal year, up from 3.15 percent this year.

“The health expenditure per person by the ministry is now gradually increasing. It will be $11 per person [this year], while people spend $14 of their own money [on health care]. In 2010, government provided only $2 per person. It’s increasing,” he said.

According to the health minister, in 2010-11, the health budget was just 74 billion kyats, about $74 million. In the current financial year, which runs until the end of March, spending on health is 499 billion kyats, rising to 650 billion kyats in 2014-15, he said.

5 Responses to World Bank Pledges $2B for Burma’s Health, Energy Sectors


    When he was the World Bank’s chief economist (before working in the Clinton administration), Lawrence Summers wrote a memo to senior World Bank staff in 1991 that revealed a different side of the Bank than the one expressed in its Web site masthead.

    The memo read:

    Just between you and me, shouldn’t the World Bank be encouraging more migration of the dirty industries to the LDCs [less developed countries]?…
    The economic logic behind dumping a load of toxic waste in the lowest wage country is impeccable, and we should face up to that.

    I’ve always thought [that] underpopulated countries in Africa are vastly underpolluted; their air quality is probably vastly inefficiently low compared to Los Angeles or Mexico City.

    The concern over an agent that causes a one-in-a-million change in the odds of prostate cancer is obviously going to be much higher in a country where people survive to get prostate cancer than in a country where under-five mortality is 200 per thousand.1

    Though the World Bank apologized for the memo, Summers’ statements reveal far more about the practices of the World Bank than the saccharine sentiments on its Web site. Summers’ comments were not just idle thoughts. One of the results of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) pushing these neoliberal policies in Africa has been the use of Africa as a dumping ground for dangerous materials.
    Trade liberalization involves the removal of most restrictions on imports to facilitate foreign investment. In order to attract foreign business, many African countries have created free trade zones, simplified the process of investment and introduced new industrial policies. Consequently, products that cannot meet Northern environmental guidelines are dumped in the continent, and pollution-intensive production like asbestos and pulp and paper have shifted their base to Africa. The suggestion by former World Bank chief economist Lawrence Summers…that African countries import toxic wastes and polluting industries is already commonplace in many African countries.2
    A tool of U.S. policy
    Created along with the IMF by the victors of the Second World War at Bretton Woods in 1944, the World Bank was promoted at first as an institution that could guarantee loans to help rebuild Europe and promote infrastructure development projects in less developed countries. But its role quickly became that of a direct lender to—and creator of—development projects in poor and developing countries.”

  2. Simple “look good” policies to hide sinister takeover procedures going on in ernest since before that fateful 18 August 2011 “family dinner”.

    Unfortunately for people of Burma, instead of havi ga policy that will really benefit the majority public, country’s economists,politicians and academics are all working for the World Bank and IMF which are simply designed to do the ground work of processing before their parent funding global conglomerates come in to loot and DESTROY the land,environment andsocial structures.

    Wake up, please!

  3. Typical World Bank strategy is to offer loans most of which will be simply put on book but would not even reach to the country (simply paid to their accountants, consultants and service providers) and with ballooning cooud interest, they then DICTATE the economic, social and financial policies of the coutry.

    New colonialism even without the bother of fighting or having to administer. A colonialism people like Khin Maung Nyo, Tin Maung Maung Than and of course Aung San Suu Kyi as well as foreign donor funded other “activist” groups including the damed 88’s are colluding to burden the country Burma and her majority populace for perpetual servitude.

  4. “The borrower is the SLAVE of the lander.”

    Unless those Americans are your parents.

  5. The World Bank is a chain for America to wrap around the necks of the third world countries. They give you loans with strings attach. You borrow new loans to pay off the old ones and finally they take over whatever you own.

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