$80M Loan from France Denounced as Unnecessary in Parliament

By The Irrawaddy 20 November 2018

YANGON—Lawmakers have criticized the government’s €70-million ($80-million) loan from a French agency to be used to develop waterways and urban heritage in Yangon, claiming that the government was majoring on the minors while neglecting pressing issues.

Last week, the deputy minister for planning and finance gave details about the “Transport, Waterways and Urban Heritage Project” in the Union Parliament.

He said the government would take the loan from the French Development Agency in order to carry out the five-year project from 2019 to 2023 including for the dredging of Pazundaung Creek (also known as Nga Moe Yeik Creek), to develop a corridor along the waterway for public use, for the development of some waterfront areas along Yangon River and to upgrade a market.

Originating in the Bago Plateau north of Yangon, the creek runs through the city before it empties into Yangon River south of the city. According to the deputy minister, the whole project would cost more than €84.7 million in total with additional contributions from the EU (€5.9 million) and the Myanmar government (€5.2 million).  He said the city’s municipal body, Yangon City Development Committee (YCDC), will implement the project with collaboration from the Ministry of Transport and Communications.

But his explanations didn’t impress the Union Parliament lawmakers.

On Monday, lawmaker U Khin Maung Maung of the ruling National League for Democracy asked the parliament why the proposed project should be prioritized.

“The government should stress more important things rather than focusing on the trivial,” he said.

The Yangon Region lawmaker complained that his city doesn’t even have enough street lights and that roads are potholed and become flooded when the rains come due to a failing drainage system.

“The YCDC still hasn’t been able to fix those problems yet. Now they are eyeing another project,” he said.

He recalled a World Bank $104-million loan accepted in 2017 for solving flooding issues in the city’s downtown areas. But now, one year on, the areas still face inundations when the rains come.

U Khin Maung Maung said the creek focused on in the project was not a major transport waterway in the city—a project not worth carrying out under an international loan.

“So are the others like [the plan for] upgrading a market and developing the waterfront. Do we really need a foreign loan for them? We will have to pay it back,” he warned.

Another lawmaker Daw Yin Min Hlaing pointed out that Yangon should spend international loans where it is really required for the benefit of people. She pointed out that until March this year the YCDC had spent more than $500 million on only three projects.

“With the money for the new project, it would be nearly $700 million of YCDC spending,” she said.

Relevant authorities will respond to the lawmakers’ discussions on Monday and the Parliament will decide if the loan should be granted or not.