Japan to help build vast Myanmar industry zone

AFP-JIJI

Myanmar and Japan agreed to start work next year on a huge industrial zone near Yangon, officials from the two countries said, as the impoverished nation hungrily eyes foreign investment.

The 2,400-hectare Thilawa project will include a port and industrial park and be up and running in 2015, according to the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry.

“It’s not an easy task but we will make no mistakes. Both of our countries share a common goal to set up the joint venture in 2013 and to launch commercial operations in 2015,” said METI Vice Minister Nobuhiko Sasaki after signing a memorandum of understanding in Yangon on Friday.

Former junta-ruled Myanmar craves investment to spur growth and boost its dilapidated infrastructure, while export-reliant Japan is hunting new opportunities in the resource-rich nation to offset sluggish domestic growth.

Tokyo has already written off massive debts owed by Myanmar and Japanese media last month said it would pledge a fresh $615 million in loans, a significant portion for the Thilawa project — although no final figures have been released.

Myanmar’s deputy minister of national planning and economic development, Set Aung, said the zone would help his nation “leapfrog” its richer neighbors.

“There are enormous employment opportunities to be created,” he said, adding Japan had pledged to inject money and share environmentally friendly technology to bring the project to fruition.