25 Years Later, World Bank Returns to Myanmar

♠ Posted by Emmanuel in , at 8/26/2012 03:36:00 PM
For developing countries, the process of normalizing relations with the rest of the world involves again availing of certain things: Coca-Cola. Pepsi. Aside from re-engaging in trade in (rather unhealthy and fattening) consumer goods, however, you also have development technocrats flogging their services in your country. I am of course talking about World Bank folks coming to your country plying development advice and rather more sought-after loans. From the Inter-Press Service:
At the beginning of August, the World Bank, along with the Asian Development Bank, reopened offices in Yangon , following more than a year of widely watched though still disputed political and social reforms in the country. This marks the first formal engagement between the World Bank and Myanmar, also known as Burma, in 25 years, as well as the first ever entry of the International Finance Corporation (IFC), the World Bank Group's private-sector arm.  
Already the bank has pledged an US$85 million loan, also expected for approval in October, alongside a plan to restructure Myanmar's debt [to the World bank, worth some $400 million.
That said, activists are wary of their lack of inclusion and the emphasis on dealing so far mostly with the regime. Given the fractious and contentious nature of Burmese politics on one hand and the supposedly more inclusive and participatory nature of World Bank lending nowadays, these are not minor issues:
To date, local organizations and communities have felt the World Bank's approach is non-inclusive, sparse on details, lacks transparency and, most worrisome, does not solicit input from the organizations and communities most affected by conflict and development to inform their decision-making process, Jennifer Quigley, with the Washington-based US Campaign for Burma, told IPS.

Just prior to the ISN release, four dozen Myanmarese NGOs sent a letter to the World Bank's headquarters, expressing their anxiety that "the Bank's re-engagement activities in our country ... have been rushed, secretive and top-down."
So there's reason to be wary. At any rate, the draft Interim Strategy Note (ISN) mentioned in the article which should be replaced with something more permanent by year end is viewable on the World Bank site. At any rate, after a quarter of a century, the World Bank is back in Burma.