World Bank pledges $2bn for infrastructure projects in Myanmar

The World Bank has pledged $2 billion in aid to Myanmar for the country’s electricity and healthcare projects.

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Half of the funds will be used to expand electricity generation, transmission and distribution in the country, where more than 70% of the population does not have access to reliable electricity supplies, World Bank president Jim Yong Kim said during his first visit there on Sunday January 26.

“Expanding access to electricity in a country like Myanmar can help transform a society,” Kim said.

“Children will be able to study at night, shops will stay open, and health clinics will have lights and energy to power life-saving technology. Electricity helps brings an end to poverty,” he added.

The energy investment will also support development of a National Electrification Plan, enhance institutional capacity, and promote regulatory reforms that are critical for sustainable private sector participation.

It will include support for private-sector investments in power generation and distribution, as well as the scaling-up of renewable energy sources for rural and off-grid electrification, the bank said.

The opening-up of resource-rich Myanmar since 2011 has ignited a surge of interest among foreign investors. In the case of steel, major infrastructure and power projects are fuelling growth in steel demand from very low levels.

At present, Myanmar depends on imports of steel products to meet its domestic needs. The government is encouraging foreign investment in the steel sector, particularly in the form of joint ventures.

Per-capita steel consumption in Myanmar is about 7-9kg per annum. This compares with figures from 2012 of 247kg in neighbouring Thailand and 124kg in Vietnam, based on data obtained from the South East Asia Iron & Steel Institute.

The production of iron and steel is an energy-intensive manufacturing process. According to the Myanmar Iron & Steel Assn, the country’s ministry of electric power has drawn up plans to gradually increase the country’s power generation by 2030.

State-owned utility Myanmar Electric Power Enterprise expects electricity generation capacity to be raised to 23,830MW by 2030 from 3,855MW in 2010.

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