Japan vowed on Thursday to resume loans to a reforming Myanmar and called on global creditors of the one-time pariah state to chip in more, chiding China for skipping a key lenders’ meeting.
Representatives from two dozen nations and a handful of international organisations attended the meeting to discuss Myanmar, formerly known as Burma, on the sidelines of the IMF and World Bank’s annual meetings in Tokyo.
Reports last month said lenders would pledge US$1.0 billion for Myanmar to help pay its debts as the former military state is increasingly welcomed back into the world community.
But the meeting on Thursday produced few concrete details.
“Japan is planning to resume its full programme in Myanmar with concessional loans... at the earliest possible time next year,” Finance Minister Koriki Jojima told the meeting, without elabourating.
“It is high time that the international community join efforts to underpin reform efforts by Myanmar, and reintegrate Myanmar as one of its members,” he added.
Myanmar’s finance minister Win Shein called for more help, saying: “We are in the midst of an unprecedented and multi-faceted transition... from a state-centred economy to a free-market economy.”
In a statement after the meeting, the World Bank and Asian Development Bank said they were “advancing necessary preparations to jointly assist Myanmar in clearing their respective arrears” early next year.
Japan agreed with Myanmar in April to forgive 300 billion yen (US$3.8 billion) of the 500 billion yen it is owed.
Myanmar has been rapidly rehabilitated since polls that saw the election of a nominally civilian government, setting off a race to tap a potentially lucrative market which is rapidly opening up after years of isolation.
Resource-poor Japan, with its export-reliant economy, is looking to foster growth in the resource-rich Mekong region, a part of the world that is also being courted by China.
Beijing, which is embroiled in a territorial row with Tokyo and decided not to send its top two finance officials to this week’s meetings, had initially planned to send a high-ranking official to Thursday’s meeting.
“It is disappointing,” Japan’s vice-finance minister Takehiko Nakao said of China’s no-show.
“While multilateral efforts are being made, we really wanted [China] to come as China...has particularly strong ties with Myanmar.”