International Donors Pledge Massive Funding for Burma

By Saw Yan Naing 13 June 2012

Burma is set to see a dramatic rise in the amount of international aid it receives, after a group representing several Western governments and multilateral agencies pledged on Tuesday to provide hundreds of millions of dollars for projects in the country.

At a meeting with President Thein Sein in Naypyidaw, the Peace Donor Support Group (PDSG)—representing the governments of Norway, the UK and Australia, as well as the European Union, the United Nations and the World Bank—offered a total of nearly US $500 million to support peace-building and other projects.

According to the president’s office website, the bulk of the funding will come from the UK and the EU, which will give $300 million and 150 million euros ($187 million), respectively.

In addition to this, Australia has already given $5 million to support health-care programs, the website said. This is just part of an $80 million aid package announced by Australian Foreign Minister Bob Carr last week. The UN will also donate $5 million for peace funding.

No figure was mentioned for Norway on the website, but the country was acknowledged for its role in founding the PDSG.

Tuesday’s meeting was also attended by Railways Minister Aung Min, who has served as a key negotiator in talks between the government and ethnic armed groups and was recently named deputy chairman of the Union-Level Peace Team.

Of the $300 million that the UK will give over the next three years, $5 million has been earmarked to “support current ongoing democratic reforms” in Burma, according to the website.

The EU’s funding will be disbursed this year and next, and will include 3-4 million euros ($3.75-5 million) to be spent on landmine education programs in Burma.

Apart from the funding pledged by donors, Burma will also be eligible to receive low-interest loans of up to $300 million annually from the World Bank, according to the President’s Office.

On the website, the government also expressed its expectation that the EU, like Australia and Norway, will in the near future drop all economic sanctions against Burma.

The PDSG was established by the Norwegian government to provide financial, technical and “idealistic” support for government-led political reforms and peace building in Burma, the website said.

The group will also facilitate the government’s efforts to “systematically manage all international donations,” it added.

Since taking office last year, Thein Sein’s government has reached ceasefire agreements with 10 out of 11 ethnic armed groups. At the same time, however, a conflict with the Kachin Independence Army has raged for more than a year, with no end in sight.