ADB Begins “Re-engagement” with Burma

Posted June 26th, 2012 at 12:10 am (UTC-5)
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The Asian Development Bank says it will begin re-engaging with Burma following reforms undertaken in the Southeast Asian country in the past year.

The bank, which has not had operations in Burma since 1988, says a senior official will visit the country Tuesday to gain a “first-hand understanding” of its goals and priorities.

The visit by Stephen Groff, the vice president for East Asia, Southeast Asia, and the Pacific, marks the first extended trip to Burma by an ADB official since Rangoon began its recent reform process. Groff will meet with President Thein Sein, government ministers and opposition lawmakers during his four-day visit.

It has been more than 20 years since the Asian Development Bank has provided direct assistance to Burma, which, until last year, had suffered through nearly five decades of harsh military rule.

The bank says any resumption of lending to Burma is dependent on approval by ADB member nations, as well as the country's continued reform process and engagement with the international community.

Years of neglect have left Burma with a struggling economy. The ADB says Burma's per capita income is about $715 per person, and about 26 percent live below the poverty line on less than $1.25 per day. But foreign investors and tourists have recently begun flocking back to the resource-rich country, which was once a commercial hub for Southeast Asia.

Since allowing a new quasi-civilian government to take power last year, Burma has released some political prisoners, relaxed media censorship and permitted opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi to run for parliament.

Some Western governments, including the United States and Britain, have begun lifting long-standing sanctions against Burma in recognition of the reforms. But many foreign governments are waiting to see if it will release additional political prisoners and end decades-long conflicts with rebel groups before they lift the remaining sanctions.