Burma

Lawmaker and Real Estate Developer Condemns Suspended High-Rise Construction

By San Yamin Aung 27 July 2016

RANGOON — A Lower House lawmaker behind a Rangoon high-rise project has criticized the division’s chief minister for a decision to suspend the construction of more than 200 buildings in the commercial capital.

During an interview with Radio Free Asia on Saturday, Thet Thet Khine, a businesswoman who is also a National League for Democracy (NLD) MP from Rangoon’s Dagon Constituency, said that Chief Minister Phyo Min Thein’s decision—made in May—has negatively affected job opportunities for local workers on sites where construction was halted.

“The government can change policies if they dislike them. It is for this that the people elected us. But their way of making changes needs to be right,” she said.

In May, the Yangon City Development Committee (YCDC) announced a halt to the construction of more than 200 buildings in Rangoon that were to be nine or more stories high, declaring that resumption would be permitted only after on-the-ground investigations were conducted to determine whether those projects had followed construction regulations. A review committee was then formed in June to perform these assessments.

The move has since been criticized by developers who say that the YCDC’s action has had serious consequences: labor issues, complaints from buyers of unfinished apartments, delays on repaying bank loans, cash flow problems and a lack of business for construction suppliers.

The YCDC acknowledges that the previous Rangoon divisional government and municipal council had given “initial approval” for proposals to build more than 200 high-rises from 2013 until March 31 of this year.

“[Their projects] were in line with the previous government’s regulations. Now, they are changing them,” said Thet Thet Khine, who is planning the construction of a high-profile condominium building housing 68 residences. The project is slated to be built on the corner of Kabar Aye Pagoda and Saya San roads, near the country’s landmark Shwedagon Pagoda.

Thet Thet Khine highlighted NLD-party head Aung San Suu Kyi’s promise during the 2015 general election campaign period that a new government would hold no grudge against the previous administration. What the Rangoon Division leadership is doing now, Thet Thet Khine alleges, is backsliding into an attitude of “just follow my orders.”

“What I want to say is that they can make a new policy, but before that, they should listen and discuss the voices of those who will need to follow that policy. They should consider the impacts, and the pros and cons [of the policy change],” Thet Thet Khine added.

The Irrawaddy tried to contact Thet Thet Khine by phone on Wednesday but were not able to reach her at the time of publication.

The suspension of the projects comes at a time when Burmese urban specialists, who contend that Rangoon is under threat due to the lack of proper urban planning and controls, have been calling on the government to take “urgent action” to rein in unruly projects. They have also called for the formation of a committee of experts on sustainable urban management.

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