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

    Greenpeace Leak: US-EU Trade Deal Would Favor Corporations

    Activist group leaks classified documents to 'shine a light' on talks that could create the world's largest bilateral trade and investment pact

    Video Ethiopia's Drought Takes Toll on Children

    East African country’s crops failed in 2015, creating food shortages for 10 million – including 6 million children whose development may be compromised

    What Your First Name Reveals About Who You Vote For

    People named Chad are more likely to be Republicans and Jonathans are usually Democrats

    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.
    Turkish Kurd Islamist Rally Stokes Tensionsi
    X
    April 29, 2016 12:28 AM
    In a sign of the rising power of Islamists in Turkey, more than 100,000 people recently gathered in Diyarbakir, the main city in Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, to mark the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad. The gathering highlighted tensions with the pro-secular Kurdish nationalist movement. Dorian Jones reports from Diyarbakir.
    Video

    Video Turkish Kurd Islamist Rally Stokes Tensions

    In a sign of the rising power of Islamists in Turkey, more than 100,000 people recently gathered in Diyarbakir, the main city in Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, to mark the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad. The gathering highlighted tensions with the pro-secular Kurdish nationalist movement. Dorian Jones reports from Diyarbakir.
    Video

    Video Pakistani School Helps Slum Kids

    Master Mohammad Ayub runs a makeshift school in a public park in Islamabad. Thousands of poor children have benefited from his services over the years, but, as VOA's Ayesha Tanzeem reports, roughly 25 million school-age youths don't get an education in Pakistan.
    Video

    Video Florida’s Weeki Wachee ‘Mermaids’ Make a Splash

    Since 1947, ‘mermaids’ have fascinated tourists at central Florida’s Weeki Wachee Springs State Park with their fluid movements and synchronized ballet. Performing underwater has its challenges, including cold temperatures and a steady current, as VOA’s Lin Yang and Joseph Mok report.
    Video

    Video Somali, African Union Forces Face Resurgent Al-Shabab

    The Islamic State terror group claimed its first attack in Somalia earlier this week, though the claim has not been verified by forces on the ground. Meanwhile, al-Shabab militants have stepped up their attacks as Somalia prepares for elections later this year. Henry Ridgwell reports there are growing frustrations among Somalia’s Western backers over the country’s slow progress in forming its own armed forces to establish security after 25 years of chaos.
    Video

    Video Bangladesh Targeted Killings Spark Wave of Fear

    People in Bangladesh’s capital are expressing deep concern over the brutal attacks that have killed secular blogger, and most recently a gay rights activist and an employee of the U.S. embassy. Xulhaz Mannan, an embassy protocol officer and the editor of the country’s only gay and transgender magazine Roopban; and his friend Mehboob Rabbi Tanoy, a gay rights activist, were hacked to death by five attackers in Mannan’s Dhaka home earlier this month.
    Video

    Video Documentary Tells Tale of Chernobyl Returnees

    Ukraine this week is marking the 30th anniversary of the world's worst nuclear accident, at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant. Soviet officials at first said little about the accident, but later evacuated a 2,600-square-kilometer "exclusion zone." Some people, though, came back. American directors Holly Morris and Anne Bogart created a documentary about this faithful and brave community. VOA's Tetiana Kharchenko reports from New York on "The Babushkas of Chernobyl." Carol Pearson narrates.
    Video

    Video Nigerians Feel Bite of Buhari Economic Policy

    Despite the global drop in the price of oil, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has refused to allow the country's currency to devalue, leading to a shortage of foreign exchange. Chris Stein reports from Lagos businessmen and consumers are feeling the impact as the country deals with a severe fuel shortage.
    Video

    Video  Return to the Wild

    There’s a growing trend in the United States to let old or underused golf courses revert back to nature. But as Erika Celeste reports from one parcel in Grafton, Ohio, converting 39 hectares of land back to green space is a lot more complicated than just not mowing the fairway.
    Video

    Video West Urges Unity in Libya as Migrant Numbers Soar

    The Italian government says a NATO-led mission aimed at stemming the flow of migrants from Libya to Europe could be up and running by July. There are concerns that the number of migrants could soar as the route through Greece and the Balkans remains blocked. Western powers say the political chaos in Libya is being exploited by people smugglers — and they are pressuring rival groups to come together under the new unity government. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
    Video

    Video Russia’s TV Rain Swims Against Tide in Sea of Kremlin Propaganda

    Russia’s media freedoms have been gradually eroded under President Vladimir Putin as his government has increased state ownership, influence, and restrictions on critical reporting. Television, where most Russians get their news, has been the main target and is now almost completely state controlled. But in the Russian capital, TV Rain stands out as an island in a sea of Kremlin propaganda.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora