KOICA signs for Dala and Bago master plans

Korea International Cooperation Agency (KOICA) has signed with the Ministry of Construction for several ambitious projects – including master plans for the north and south of Yangon and designing a national road network.

The South Korean government’s grant aid arm recently signed with the minister to prepare two regional development plans, said chief Myanmar representative Nam Kwon-Hyoung in an interview with The Myanmar Times.

“We will make feasibility studies to develop the corridor between Yangon and Hanthawaddy in Bago Region, including industrial and residential zones and supporting infrastructure,” he said.

The US$1.4 billion Hanthawaddy International Airport is being built by Singapore’s Yongnam Holdings, Changi Airport Planners and Engineers, and Japan’s JGC Corporation.

The project is targeted for completion in 2022 when it will become the main entry point for international arrivals. The project has had financing issues and repeated delays.

It has been criticised for its distance from Yangon and the poor quality of the road that links the two cities. “There should be a Hanthawaddy direct expressway,” said Mr Nam. KOICA has not yet started the studies, he said, but he envisions an arterial highway from the airport linking to Waizayantar Road in Yangon.

KOICA will also draw up the plan for Dala township, to the south of the Yangon River, he said. “Next year we will start the studies and the master plan will be complete in early 2017.”

South Korea has offered a $138 million long-term, low-interest loan to build a suspension bridge linking Dala with Yangon. The project is expected to take around five years.

At present, Dala is reachable by ferry or on small sampan boats. The only road access is across a bridge over the Yangon River to Hlaing Tharyar – an indirect route. The area is underdeveloped, given its proximity to downtown Yangon.

The master plan will reflect that Dala is a low-lying area and prone to flooding, said Mr Nam.

“I don’t think Dala is suitable for an industrial zone – it could be used for offices as it is very near to downtown Yangon, but it should not be residential because of the risk of flooding,” he said. “There is a very successful amusement park in South Korea near to Seoul – it’s my personal opinion but I think part of Dala could be developed in a similar way.”

KOICA is also working with the Ministry of Construction to develop a nationwide arterial road plan, he said.

The final report was delivered to the Ministry of Construction on July 24. It includes a 9470 kilometre expressway network, a 13,224km Union highway network and an 11,684km sub-arterial road network. Almost 50 percent of this will be developed over the next 20 years, said Mr Nam.

“Myanmar’s government has to develop an efficient road system to induce foreign investment – the roads and the economy should be related,” he said.

He also believes that Yangon’s road network needs a serious rethink. “I am interested in the potential of the circular railway and have mentioned this to officials,” he said. “My idea is to dig through the ground to build a subway along the circle line and build an internal highway on top. The construction cost would be low and it would be a good use of space.”

The open cut construction method could be three times cheaper than shielding construction methods used for subway construction, he said.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has already committed to a $250 million soft loan to modernise Yangon’s 46-kilometre (28-mile) circular railway, which was approved by parliament last week.

The Japanese government, through the Japan International Cooperation Agency, plans to upgrade the infrastructure, including new trains and signalling.

Beyond the main cities and highways, KOICA has big plans for agriculture and rural development. “This year we have launched a trial Saemaul-Undong project,” said Mr Nam.

The scheme, which translates as “new village movement” aims to help villages through community development – in Korea the approach is seen as the key driver behind rural poverty eradication.

In Myanmar the $22 million pilot project was launched in December last year and will run until 2019. Initially it will focus on 100 villages. “This is a pilot, so if it works, KOICA will discuss expansions and in the future our master plan could become a nationwide rural development plan,” said Mr Nam.

Each village will receive $100,000. “We provide the budget and the villages decide what to buy and how to implement the projects – on new roads, electricity, drinking water. The township officials review it and then the regional officials approve it.”

There are three pillars to the project, said Mr Nam – capacity building, upgrading infrastructure and increasing income generation. “In Korea, there are so many success stories,” he said. “For example, a village could come up with a community brand to increase their post-harvest value, make packaging, sell the produce to City Mart or export it.”

In May, 100 model villages were selected by KOICA and the Ministry of Agriculture and Irrigation – 40 in Nay Pyi Taw, 10 in Sagaing Region, 10 in Shan State, 10 in Mandalay Region, 10 in Ayeyarwady Region, five in Bago Region, five in Yangon Region, five in Mon State and five in Tanintharyi Region.

“We suggested the government pick 10 villages in each region, but they said Rakhine State and Kachin State are unstable and should be excluded,” said Mr Nam, adding that the government wanted the project to focus on Nay Pyi Taw initially so that it could easily demonstrate the results.

KOICA also has plans to help develop a government policy think tank, said Mr Nam. The Myanmar Development Institute will be based in Nay Pyi Taw and will have a $20 million budget. It is modelled on the Korea Development Institute, he said.

“There is no nationwide institution for empirical data analysis in Myanmar. We plan to open a temporary office in Nay Pyi Taw later this year and the new building will open in 2017, under the Ministry of Science and Technology,” said Mr Nam. “We provide scholarship programs for Myanmar economists and are helping with the second five-year social and economic development plan,” he said.

The think tank will focus on microeconomics and finance, industrial, social welfare, health, and education issues and will be an independent body under a special law, he said.

Source: Myanmar Times

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