Burma

ADB Approves $484-Million Loan for Expressway Linking Myanmar’s Bago Region, Mon State

By Nan Lwin 2 November 2020

YANGON—The Asian Development Bank (ADB) has approved a US$484-million (624.52-billion-kyat) loan to construct a new expressway connecting Bago Region and Mon State, which lie along Japan’s planned East-West Economic Corridor, a grand infrastructure scheme for the Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS).

The ADB said the new GMS expressway will connect Bago, the capital of Bago Region, and Kyaikhto in Mon State, boosting Myanmar’s connectivity with Thailand and other countries along the GMS corridor and promoting trade, tourism and investment.

Under Japan’s grand plan for the Mekong subregion, Myanmar lies on two major economic corridors: the East-West Economic Corridor connecting Vietnam’s Dong Ha City with Yangon’s Thilawa Special Economic Zone (SEZ) via Cambodia and Thailand; and the Southern Economic Corridor from central Vietnam, through Cambodia and Thailand to the planned Dawei SEZ in southeastern Myanmar.

The East-West corridor plan aims to improve connectivity between Bangkok and Yangon and help businesses in the Thai capital extend their supply chains to Yangon and the Thilawa SEZ. Backed by Japan and situated on the Yangon River estuary in Myanmar’s commercial hub, the Thilawa project is the country’s first SEZ.

The ABD said the new expressway will include a 2.3-km bridge across the Sittaung River, which will be financed with a loan of approximately 27.78 billion yen (342.18 billion kyats) from the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA).

The ADB said the entire project would enhance the ability of the Construction Ministry to manage the country’s major toll highways and implement social and environmental safeguards.

A community-based road safety program for villagers along the Bago-Kyaikhto corridor will also be implemented, the bank said.

JICA has long planned to build an inland highway from Thilawa to Bangkok as a transportation shortcut. Transportation routes from Singapore to Thilawa currently run a combined length of 4,000 km and take 21 days to negotiate.

To further reduce the transportation time, as part of the East-West Economic Corridor, three bridges are already being built with JICA’s support in Karen and Mon states—the Gyaing-Kawkareik Bridge, the Gyaing-Zathabyin Bridge and the Atran Bridge. The agency expects it will take one-and-a-half days to transport goods over the 870 km from Thilawa to Bangkok.

In July, the National League for Democracy (NLD)-dominated Union Parliament approved the loan over the objections of military appointees and lawmakers from other parties.

In February, Minister of Construction U Han Zaw said the government planned to upgrade basic infrastructure and enhance urban management of three major cities in Mon and Karen states that lie on the East-West Economic Corridor with $80 million in loans from the ADB and a $23.4-million loan from Thailand’s Neighboring Countries Economic Development Cooperation Agency (NEDA).

The proposed cities to be covered by the GMS Corridor Towns Development Project are the Mon capital of Mawlamyine, the Karen capital of Hpa-an and Myawaddy, a major town on the border with Thailand in Karen State.

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