Since its establishment in Yangon in 1981, the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) Myanmar Office plays an important role in providing official development assistance (ODA) and supporting the improvement of Myanmar’s social and economic infrastructure. Keiichiro Nakazawa, Chief Representative, discusses JICA’s recent initiatives and activities designed to boost the economic growth of Myanmar.
European Times: Which are the pillars of JICA’s activities in Myanmar?
Keiichiro Nakazawa: Democracy and market-oriented economic reform in Myanmar cannot be achieved overnight. JICA is supporting Myanmar’s people in overcoming many difficulties embedded in its society that will help in the creation of economic growth and politically stable country. The first of three pillars is the improvement of people’s livelihoods – providing rural development, poverty reduction and assistance in medical and health care. Taking in consideration that the people are Myanmar’s most valuable resource, JICA bases the remaining activities on capacity building of the institutions and assistance for development of infrastructure necessary for sustainable economic growth.
European Times: What are JICA’s current initiatives and projects?
Keiichiro Nakazawa: Myanmar is among the biggest receivers of JICA’s technical assistance aid for the past four to five years, engaging more than 50 Japanese expats in capacity development. JICA also provides grant assistance for construction of hospitals and schools ranking from US$200-250 million annually and concessional loans surpassing US$1 billion annually. The assistance is provided through financing contracts of partners in the private sector that conduct international tenders for certain projects, under defined procurement guidelines. Last year JICA also provided US$50 million in loans, distributed through local banks and designed for local small and medium enterprises which, among others things, do not have strong assets for mortgages, such as possession on land and buildings.
One of JICA major projects regarding urban infrastructure development is the cooperation and assistance in the upgrading of two master plans, delivered on the estimated urban growth of the Greater Yangon – the Strategic Urban Development Plan and Comprehensive Urban Transport Plan.
European Times: Why should foreign investors target Myanmar?
Keiichiro Nakazawa: Myanmar’s new government opens its borders to foreign investments, and is interested in cooperation with companies that will help in building capacities of the institutions, transfer know-how, take care of the environment and follow good labour law practices. In this regard, one of JICA’s major projects is the creation of Thaliwa Special Economic Zone, located in the vicinity of Yangon City. This economic zone provides a great investment platform, which already convinced businesses from 17 countries to join.