Minister Warns Engineers Will Be Jailed for Poor Roads

By Htet Naing Zaw 2 May 2016

RANGOON — During a press conference on Saturday about a 100-day plan to reduce road accidents on the Rangoon-Mandalay motorway, Construction Minister Win Khaing said engineers involved in building Burma’s new roads will be thrown in jail if the roads do not last at least five years.

“We firmly guarantee that if the roads don’t last the five years of the new government’s tenure, we’ll send those engineers [involved in construction] to jail,” Win Khaing said.

The warning comes amid long-standing public criticism against previous government attempts to construct new roads, many of which are rendered unusable during monsoon season and are in generally poor condition throughout the rest of the year.

Win Khaing acknowledged that, on its own, his ministry lacks the budget necessary to repair the entire Rangoon-Mandalay motorway, which spans nearly 400 miles and has become notorious for fatal road accidents since it was opened in 2010. He added that his staff would do their best to repair a 20-mile stretch of the motorway and that he would seek international assistance to repair the rest.

“We don’t have the budget [to repair the entire motorway]. If we divide the budget, we can only allocate about 10 billion kyats [US$8.6 million] for each township. [Therefore] we have to find international development partners [in order to fully repair the motorway],” Win Khaing said.

The minister stressed that Burma is in desperate need of general infrastructural development, describing improvement to infrastructure as key to citizens’ socioeconomic development.

“It’s critically important that roads linking villages and districts are fit for purpose so that people can have a better standard of living,” he said.

From its opening in 2010 to the end of 2014, some 400 people have been killed and more than 1,000 more wounded in road accidents on the Rangoon-Mandalay motorway.

According to Win Khaing, the Ministry of Construction is also planning to launch an affordable housing project in the capital Naypyidaw. This new housing is expected to include about 40 apartments, each priced lower than 10 million kyats [$8,605].