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World Bank officer to meet with Burmese leaders

The World Bank will open its new office in Burma on July 30, officiated by Pamela Cox, the East Asia and Pacific Region vice president.

Pamela-Cox-World-BankWhile in Burma, Cox will also meet with senior officials and development partners to continue discussions on ways the bank can structure loans and programs to improve the Burmese economy, especially among the poor and vulnerable.

This is the first visit by a World Bank senior official to the country since the new government took office in 2010.

In press reports in April, Cox said among the bank’s first priorities are determining the country's unpaid debts and getting accurate economic data, while also assessing its financial system.

Cox said the global bank was “heartened by the government's steps in Myanmar” and would respond step-by-step in line with member countries and other agencies.

“We've been working very closely with our board and our shareholders, the other bilateral partners, the IMF, and, of course, the government of Myanmar on plans for moving our relationship forward,” she told reporters in Washington.

Burma owes the World Bank $393 million from lending from the late 1980s, Cox said. It also owes the Asian Development Bank nearly $500 million.

The World Bank will work with the International Monetary Fund on debt-sustainability analysis to see “how much debt stress this country is going to be under once it normalizes relations and how much debt should be forgiven,” Cox said.

A basic analysis includes questions such as, “Does the government have a functioning financial system? Does it have a functioning budget system? Does it have a government that actually works?” she said.

Before restarting loan programs in Burma, the bank said it would make an economic assessment of Burma's arrears and the country’s economic condition and needs.

“We recognize that reforms are fragile, and we are well aware of the risks. The speed of our engagement in Myanmar will depend on whether reforms can be sustained,” Cox said.

Meanwhile, The Asian Development Bank (ADB) will also open an office in Burma starting July 30.

Putu Kamayana, currently the ADB country director in Cambodia, will direct the office whose mission is to re-establish relations with the Burma prior to granting loans and starting other development projects.