Multi-Billion Dollar Rangoon Southwest Expansion Set to Begin
By Tin Htet Paing 20 February 2017
RANGOON — The Rangoon divisional government will begin implementation of a controversial expansion plan in the southwest region of the commercial capital at the end of February, according to Rangoon Chief Minister U Phyo Min Thein.
The chief minister made the announcement on Saturday during a meeting with Vice President U Myint Swe and local businesspeople at the Union of Myanmar Federation of Chambers of Commerce and Industry (UMFCCI) in Rangoon.
Since 2014, the multi-billion dollar southwest Rangoon expansion plan has been shrouded in controversy, from questions about the tendering process to concerns over infrastructure.
A little-known company, Myanmar Say Ta Nar Myothit, initially won the exclusive contract to develop the project. The company is run by two Chinese businessmen, Xiao Feng and Xiao Sen, who had close ties to then-chief minister U Myint Swe.
The shadowy tender generated public outcry due to its lack of transparency, and the divisional parliament suspended the project in September 2014.
Then in early 2016, before the NLD government took power, the shelved development project was awarded to three firms: Yangon South West Development, Shwe Popa International, and Business Capital City Development.
The Yangon South West Development company is run by the same two businessmen who won the initial tender, Xiao Feng and Xiao Sen, according to sources.
Shwe Popa International is a subsidiary of conglomerate Shwe Thanlyin, and the Business Capital City Development firm is run by prominent developer Maung Weik.
In an interview with The Irrawaddy in April 2016—after the NLD took office—the chief minister pledged to review all controversial city expansion projects and prioritize the public good over corporate interests.
“The divisional government must oversee the projects,” U Phyo Min Thein said at the time.
The southwest city expansion plan would cover some 30,000 acres on the west side of the Rangoon River, including land in Kyimyindaing, Seikgyikanaungto and Twante townships. The plan, as it is envisioned, will include construction of affordable apartments, a 1,000-student school, a home for the elderly, and five bridges spanning the river, linking the western bank to Rangoon proper.
The divisional government controls the project planning, and it will again open for bids from developers, who would be required to implement the government’s plan, according to U Than Swe, a Seikgyikanaungto Township lawmaker.
But U Than Swe said he knew “no detailed information about the process” when asked if the government would reconsider the initial tender awardees.
To manage the southwest expansion project, the Rangoon divisional government has decided to form a public company in partnership with the Myanmar Construction Entrepreneurs Association (MCEA), according to MCEA chairman U Tha Htay. The public company will allow for better collaboration in implementing the urban development plans.
However, U Tha Htay refused to comment on details of the southwest city expansion plan.
The Yangon City Development Committee (YCDC) is not involved in planning the southwest expansion, nor in plans for Dala Township, according to U Toe Aung, who serves in YCDC’s urban planning and land management department.
On Monday, The Irrawaddy was unable to reach Daw Nilar Kyaw—Rangoon Division’s minister of electricity, industry and transportation—for questions. She is overseeing the city expansion projects under the chief minister.