World Bank Preparing $85 Million in Grants to Support Burma’s Reforms

Posted August 1st, 2012 at 3:35 am (UTC-5)
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The World Bank is preparing up to $85 million in new grants for Burma in order to help support reforms in the Southeast Asian country.

The global lender said in a statement Wednesday that the grants will support “community driven development programs” that aim to provide the Burmese people with “real economic benefits” from their government's reforms.

The announcement came as the bank opened a new office in Rangoon, which it says will allow it to reach “some of the poorest people in East Asia” who have been “cut off from the global economy for too long.”

Pamela Cox, the World Bank's East Asia and Pacific Regional Vice President, attended the opening ceremony Wednesday. It is the first visit by the bank's senior leadership since the formerly authoritarian country began undertaking political and economic reforms last year.

The World Bank, which cut off lending to Burma in 1987, also says Burma will have access to interest-free loans from the International Development Association, its fund for the world's poorest countries, once it repays $397 million in past due debt.

One of the poorest countries in the region, Burma has long been the target of economic sanctions by Western governments because of its harsh former military dictatorship. But the U.S. and other governments have been re-engaging with the country after a new, nominally civilian government took over in March of last year and began implementing reforms.

The World Bank says it is also conducting economic research in Burma to gain a better understanding of the extent of poverty, to help expand and modernize the financial system and enhance the business environment.