News / Asia

Japan Becoming Major Economic Force in Burma

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Burma's President Thein Sein, take a salute of the honor guard at Presidential Palace in Naypyitaw, Burma, May 26, 2013.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Burma's President Thein Sein, take a salute of the honor guard at Presidential Palace in Naypyitaw, Burma, May 26, 2013.
Daniel Schearf
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has forgiven billions of dollars of Burmese debt and promised new aid.  Analysts said despite China being its largest investor, Burma is increasingly looking to Japan as the dominant economic force.

During the first visit by a Japanese prime minister in 36 years, Shinzo Abe not only forgave Burma's debt, but also pledged a new development loan.

Japan cancelled $1.74 billion in debt and on Sunday agreed to lend Burma over half a billion dollars more for infrastructure and power projects.

Japan had earlier written off debts of more than $3.5 billion owed by Burma.

Speaking via Skype, economics professor Sean Turnell of Macquarie University in Sydney said Japan's serves its own self-interest by forgiving Burma's debt.

"There is a huge amount of money that the government of Japan is willing to advance," he said.  "And many Japanese firms, particularly in the areas of infrastructure and so on, who are only too glad to win contracts to do development work in Burma.  So, I think that is number one.  Secondly, though, of course, there's the geo-political aspect.  Japan, like many countries have been worried the extent to which Burma has moved increasingly under China's shadow.  And, of course, we know that there is a broader story of China and Japan in the region.  So, I think we would have to fit it as part of that."

Part of the new loan will go toward electricity development at the Thilawa Special Economic Zone at a port near Rangoon. 

The SEZ is Japan's largest investment project and one that economists say is likely to have a major impact because of its proximity to Burma's largest city.

Despite the development plan, Japan's few-hundred-million dollars in investments ranks far below China's more than $14 billion. 

Like China, Japan did not take part in Western sanctions against Burma's former military government.  But, Tokyo did scale back loans for development and major investments.

Meanwhile, China invested heavily in hydropower dams, mining projects, and an oil and gas pipeline stretching from western Burma to the Chinese border. 

But, unlike Japan, most of China's investments were made in shady deals under the former military government. 

Many of the projects are controversial because of their environmental and social costs and have led to protests and hostility against the Chinese. 

Turnell said because of the way it is investing, Japan's impact is starting to eclipse that of China's. 

"Again, the Chinese investment is mostly resource and energy projects.  It is mostly about taking stuff out of the ground or taking energy out of Burma and into China, with China as the main consumer.  But, if we look at what Japan is about it is essentially projects that will have a deep impact within Burma.  It is not just simply about taking out resources.  It is actually planting infrastructure and institutions in place.  But, similarly, of course, Japan is heavily involved in some the areas of reform," he said.

Thailand Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra was in Japan last week and encouraged investment in its Dawei project in Burma.

The $8.5 billion deep sea port and industrial zone is to be built along the Thai border, but the project has struggled to get funding.

If finished, it would be the largest industrial zone in Southeast Asia and would cut transport time for goods and improve shipping security.

But analysts said Japan has approached the mega-project cautiously as there is a lot of money needed and Thailand stands to benefit the most. 

Thin Aung is director general of the Dawei project at Italian-Thai Development, the company in charge.  Speaking via Skype, he said while they have surveyed the land for the project, the only construction work so far is on a road between Thailand and Burma, also known as Myanmar.

"So, once the road is complete then we have a better road link to Thailand and Myanmar and then we start pushing on the port.  Meanwhile, small industries may be set up at the border or along the road," he said.

Thin Aung said although the road will not likely be finished until 2015, they expect some small factories to begin building in the coming months.

Meanwhile, Ital-Thai is exploring the possibility of investments in the Dawei project from countries other than Japan.

Thin Aung said they plan to discuss opening up the project to various companies, including from the United States, China, the European Union, and Russia during a June meeting in Bangkok.

You May Like

Karzai's Legacy: Missed Opportunities?

Afghanistan's president leaves behind a much different nation than the one he inherited, yet his legacy from 13 years in power is getting mixed reviews More

US Secret Service Head: White House Security Lapse 'Unacceptable'

Julia Pierson faces tough questions from lawmakers after a recent intrusion at the White House: 'It is clear that our security plan was not executed properly' More

Frustrated, Liberian Students Want Ebola Fight Role

Thousands have volunteered to go to counties, rural villages to talk to people in their language about deadly virus More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Malaysia Struggles to Stop People Joining Jihadi
X
Mahi Ramakrishnan
September 30, 2014 2:16 PM
Malaysian authorities say militant groups like the so-called "Islamic State" have used social media to entice at least three dozen Malaysian Muslims to fight in what they call "jihad" in Syria and Iraq. As Mahi Ramkrishnan reports from Kuala Lumpur, counterterrorism police are deeply worried about what could happen when these militants return home.
Video

Video Malaysia Struggles to Stop People Joining Jihad

Malaysian authorities say militant groups like the so-called "Islamic State" have used social media to entice at least three dozen Malaysian Muslims to fight in what they call "jihad" in Syria and Iraq. As Mahi Ramkrishnan reports from Kuala Lumpur, counterterrorism police are deeply worried about what could happen when these militants return home.
Video

Video Could US Have Done More to Stop Rise of Islamic State?

President Obama says airstrikes against Islamic State militants in Syria will likely continue for some time because, in his words, "there is a cancer that has grown for too long." So what if President Obama had acted sooner in Syria to arm more-moderate opponents of both the Islamic State and the Syrian government? VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports from the United Nations.
Video

Video Treasure Hunters Seek 'Hidden Treasure' in Central Kenya

Could a cave in a small village in central Kenya be the site of buried treasure? A rumor of riches, left behind by colonialists, has some residents dreaming of wealth, while others see it as a dangerous hoax. VOA's Gabe Joselow has the story.
Video

Video Iran's Rouhani Skeptical on Syria Strikes

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani expressed skepticism Friday that U.S.-led airstrikes in Iraq and Syria could crush Islamic State militants. From New York, VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports the president was also hopeful that questions about Iran’s nuclear program could be resolved soon.
Video

Video US House Speaker: Congress Should Debate Authorization Against IS

As wave after wave of U.S. airstrikes target Islamic State militants, the speaker of the Republican-controlled House of Representatives says he would be willing to call Congress back into session to debate a formal, broad authorization for the use of military force. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports from Washington, where legislators left town 10 days ago for a seven-week recess.
Video

Video Ebola Patients Find No Treatment at Sierra Leone Holding Center

At a holding facility in Makeni, central Sierra Leone, dozens of sick people sit on the floor in an empty university building. They wait in filthy conditions. It's a 16-hour drive by ambulance to Kailahun Ebola treatment center. Adam Bailes was there and reports on what he says are some of the worst situations he has seen since the beginning of this Ebola outbreak. And he says it appears case numbers may already be far worse than authorities acknowledge.
Video

Video Identifying Bodies Found in Texas Border Region

Thousands of immigrants have died after crossing the border from Mexico into remote areas of the southwestern United States in recent years. Local officials in south Texas alone have found hundreds of unidentified bodies and buried them in mass graves in local cemeteries. Now an anthropologist and her students at Baylor University have been exhuming bodies and looking for clues to identify them. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from Waco, Texas.
Video

Video Ebola Robs Liberians of Chance to Say Good-Bye to Loved Ones

In Liberia, where Ebola has killed more than 1,500 people, authorities have worked hard to convince people to allow specialized burial teams to take away dead bodies. But these safety measures, while necessary, make it hard for people to say good bye to their loved ones. VOA's Anne Look reports on the tragedy from Liberia.
Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.

AppleAndroid