Myanmar MPs Approve ADB Loan for Mekong Corridor Highway

Myanmar’s Union Parliament on Wednesday approved a US$483.8 million (660 billion kyats) loan from the Asian Development Bank (ABD) for an expressway that is a part of the international East West Economic Corridor (EWEC).

The project hopes to link Vietnam’s port of Da Nang and Thilawa port in Yangon, passing through Laos, Cambodia and Thailand.

The approved 62 km Bago-Kyaik Hto Expressway Project will connect Bago Region and Mon State, with the Ministry of Construction taking responsibility.

In Myanmar, the EWEC is due to link to the planned expressway, the Bago-Thanlyin road to the Thilawa Special Economic Zone, Yangon’s outer ring road, Hanthawaddy International airport and the Yangon-Mandalay highway.

Military appointees and lawmakers from other parties objected to the ABD loan.

The ministry proposed the project on July 17 and the Parliament debated the loans on Monday.

Daw Yin Min Hlaing of the National League for Democracy representing Gangaw Township in Magwe Region urged the ministry to review the budget as the cost was too high, costing nearly 22 billion kyats ($16 million) per mile (1.6 km).

Dr. Kyaw Lin, the deputy construction minister, told Parliament the expressway would form part of the Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS). It will help “not only the economic development of Myanmar, but also the connectivity and trade between Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia and Myanmar, which are part of the GMS.”

The Ministry of Construction demonstrates the EWEC plans.
The deputy minister said the new four-lane road will save time when traveling from Bago to Kyaikto in Mon State through Thanatpin and Waw townships. The project is due to start next year and be completed by 2027. It is expected to take about 55 minutes to travel once construction is completed, while the existing road currently takes about two hours.

The road is due to be an access-controlled expressway with four interchanges, noise barriers and high walls, 315 small bridges and underpasses. It is also due to include a 2 km bridge over the Sittaung River.

The bridge is due to be built with a 27.8 billion yen ($264 million) loans from the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), which was also approved by Parliament on Wednesday.

According to a JICA study, 3,000 to11,000 vehicles are using the current road each day, with traffic expected to continue to increase until 2025.

As part of the EWEC project, the government upgraded the Myawaddy-Kawkareik and the Eindu-Kawkareik sections with ADB loans. The Bago-Thanlyin section, connecting Thilawa Special Economic Zone, is due to be constructed with another ADB loan.

U Maung Maung Win, the deputy minister of planning, finance and industry, told Parliament that the expressway will boost the domestic and Mekong regional economy but also stimulate trade and safety for road users.

The Bago-Kyaikto expressway is part of the COVID-19 Economic Relief Plan to boost the economy by using construction projects to create employment, said U Kyaw Lin.

The Construction Ministry looked to receive $2 billion (2.7 trillion kyat) in foreign loans but has so far only received $344 million (469 billion kyats) to use and has not started repaying those loans.

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