The Irrawaddy

Lawmakers Consider $34.4M Loan from Italy For Electrification Projects

Solar panel installations seen in Naypyitaw in 2017.

NAYPYITAW — A military representative in the Union Parliament on Thursday called for transparency in the tender selection process for rural electrification projects that would be funded with loans the country is considering borrowing from Italy.

On Thursday, lawmakers debated a proposal from the president to accept 30 million euros ($34.4 million) in no-interest loans from Italy for the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Irrigation.

The ministry will use loans to supply electricity to rural villages in remote areas of the country.

“There must be transparency and norms must be met in selecting tender winners. In addition, [the ministry] must make sure the tender winners use quality materials on the project,” said military representative Major Tin Lin.

As the loans are intended for the social wellbeing of people in rural areas, the ministry must make sure the money is not wasted and that people get the full benefits, the major said.

The four-year project will supply electricity from solar power and a mini grid to about 10,000 households in over 1,000 villages in Chin State and the Naga Self-Administered Zone in Sagaing Region.

Lawmakers said that in previous rural electrification projects implemented with foreign loans, solar power systems started to malfunction after less than a year, and the concerned departments were slow in replacing the malfunctioning parts with new ones.

Lawmaker U Sein Win, of Maubin Township in Irrawaddy Region, called for transparency in the tender selection process and responsibility and accountability from the concerned departments.

“It is important that people are not burdened by what is supposed to facilitate their social wellbeing. If the new project follows the previous unsuccessful projects, our country will go nowhere,” said lawmaker Daw Cho Cho Win of Sagaing Region.

Local residents, however, will have to pay their fair share to get access to electricity. Lawmakers suggested that the government should reduce the price in remote and underdeveloped villages.

They also called for the ministry to review the price rates for electricity in order to avoid creating a burden on low-income residents.

The project will be implemented as part of the National Electrification Project being implemented with $400 million in loans from the World Bank.

Lawmakers will continue their debate on whether or not to approve the loans from Italy next week.

Translated from Burmese by Thet Ko Ko.