Lawmakers Call for Better Use of International Loans

By Htet Naing Zaw 5 December 2016

Lawmakers of the ruling National League for Democracy (NLD) party have stressed the need for the effective use of international aid and loans that foreign countries have provided in support of State Counselor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and democratic reform in Burma.

During Daw Aung San Suu Kyi’s visits to the US, Japan, India and China, Burma’s de facto leader received pledges of aid and official assistance loans that should be used more productively, said NLD lawmakers.

“We should avoid waste when using international aid,” Lower House lawmaker Dr. Soe Naing of South Okkalapa Township told The Irrawaddy, lamenting that there had been pitfalls in a water supply project being implemented with international assistance in his constituency.

Lawmaker U Lwin Ko Latt echoed the sentiment and expressed concern over the mismanagement of international assistance. He suggested the formation of a parliamentary committee to monitor public expenditures to minimize waste.

Meanwhile, the government’s plan to provide agribusinesses loans with Japanese loan money has come under fire.

In a Union Parliament session on Oct. 30, Union Minister for Agriculture, Livestock and Irrigation Dr. Aung Thu revealed a plan to provide a loan of up to 50 million kyats (US$40,000) to people who operate up to 50 acres of farmland.

According to the minister, Burma’s Agricultural Development Bank received a $130 million loan at a low-interest rate, which he said would be used to provide agribusiness loans.

Most of the country’s farmers own less than 50 acres—many rural farmers owning only a couple of acres at most—and currently only receive government loans of about 150,000 kyats per acre while operating costs run about 250,000 kyats per acre, said lawmaker U Sein Win of Maubin Township.

“The minister said up to 50 million kyats would be lent. I don’t oppose lending the money. But priority should be given to small and medium-sized farms,” U Sein Win told The Irrawaddy.

Small time farmers have to make up the difference in operational costs through loans from private lenders, he said, calling on the government to provide adequate loans to individual farmers rather than large agribusiness firms.

While land disputes remain unresolved, lending additional money to large-scale firms means handing money to cronies and killing small farmers, he said.

“The lower the investment amount, the worse the harvest—further impoverishing poor farmers. I want international loans to be used for the public benefit,” said U Sein Win.

Since the NLD government came to power, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi has visited four superpowers: the US, Japan, China and India. Following her visits, the US said it would end economic sanctions and Japan pledged to provide US$7.73 billion. While in China, she met with the president of the Asia Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) and received loan pledges for the establishment of a gas power plant. During her visit to India, she signed a memorandum of understanding regarding cooperation in the banking, power and insurance sectors.

Translated from Burmese by Thet Ko Ko