Rangoon Expansion Plan Criticized for Poor Transparency

By May Kha 25 August 2014

RANGOON — The Rangoon divisional government has awarded a multi-billion dollar contract to a largely unknown public company to implement the Rangoon expansion plan, a development plan that will see Burma’s biggest city grow by tens of thousands of acres.

Rangoon Mayor Hla Myint revealed during a session of the divisional parliament on Friday that Myanma Setana Myothit company had been awarded the contract. But the news raised concerns among lawmakers, who said they had not been consulted.

“The company alone will carry out the project, and we have chosen it because it is financially strong. We have done it secretly to avoid unnecessary problems,” Hla Myint told lawmakers, reading a message by Rangoon Chief Minister Myint Swe.

The expansion plan will see the official city limits of Rangoon expanded by some 30,000 acres, including farmland, from Kyee Myin Daing, Seik Gyi Kha Naung To and Twante townships.

According to Myint Swe, the public company will complete 70 percent of the project within three years at a cost of US$8 billion. It will construct affordable apartments, a school for 1,000 students, a home for the aged, and five six-lane bridges.

Myint Swe said local residents had consented to the project, and that farmland had lawfully been claimed as urban property by a government order. Other development projects across the country, including the Thilawa Special Economic Zone near Rangoon, have led to widespread accusations of land confiscations without proper consent or compensation.

“The company will take sole responsibility to ensure land owners in the planned new town area are compensated properly. It will also supply utilities and build other infrastructure,” the Rangoon mayor said.

However, lawmakers were not pleased by a lack of transparency in the deal, saying they did not know the company’s background or how the contract had been awarded.

U Kyaw, a lawmaker representing Thingangyun Township, said the parliament was left in the dark during tender process. “We’ve only just been informed, which is really bad. It is important to check whether the people will benefit and whether the contract was given fairly,” he said.

Nyo Nyo Thin, a lawmaker from Bahan Township, agreed. “It is not compliant with democratic norms that [the Rangoon government] kept it a secret until putting it on the table at the assembly. And once it’s on the table, lawmakers should have a right to discuss it, but they didn’t allow us to do so,” she said.

“We don’t know how the company was selected, and it is unacceptable that a single company was awarded the entire contract. I think [the Rangoon government] is not being honest by implementing the project without seeking public approval. The project area covers farmland and it is not yet clear whether farmland owners really agreed to it.”

The ninth regular session of the Rangoon divisional parliament began Friday and ends Sept. 5.