Yangoon, January 24, 2018
The Dawei Special Economic Zone (SEZ) will be developed in full to accelerate its completion after a five-year delay. The original plan was to develop the first phase of the SEZ, a spokesperson of the SEZ management committee said.
A public forum was held in Dawei SEZ area for the purposes of sharing information and discussing action plans by the management committee and Italian-Thai Development company(ITD), the developer selected to construct the initial phase of the SEZ, last week.
The government has been exploring ways to restart development of Dawei SEZ, which has been suspended since2013, when, ITD withdrew from the agreement to develop the $8 billion SEZ due to financial constraints. There were also community complaints regarding lack of adequate compensation for the construction and potential pollution and disruption caused. ITD resigned the concession agreement in 2015.
Currently, Japan International Cooperation Agency is drawing up a full phase master plan for Dawei SEZ. The plan will be finalised and submitted to the relevant SEZ authorities in April. Full phase implementation will commence in tandem with development of the initial phase of the SEZ, which involves the construction of roads and a port as well as electricity generation, said U Myint San , Vice President of Dawei SEZ.
“There were many complications in terms of agreement with the previous government and land compensation issues to be tackled with the initial phase developer ITD. So we can’t wait for the initial phase to be finished to start the full phase. We have to develop both phases together,” he said.
In 2015, Thailand had offered Myanmar a soft loan of 4.5 billion baht at an interest rate of 0.1pc to upgrade the road into an ASEAN-standard highway. The loan will be repayable within 20 years.
Commerce Minister U Than Myint told The Myanmar Times late last year that acceptance of the loan will be decided during the coming seventh Pyihtaungsu Hluttaw meeting.
According to the information received from the public forum, the existing six villages involved in the Dawei SEZ project are not likely to be relocated, said U Aung Ko, farmer of Pagawzon village in the SEZ area.
U Aye Min, President of Dawei Nationalities Party said while it is a good sign that the project will be restarting after the long pause, the SEZ has to be developed with least possible negative impact to the community.
“The restart must avoid the mistakes initiated under the previous government. Compensation has to be fair. The suspension of the project was largely due to protests over unfair compensation,” he said.
Two taskforces have already been formed to look into restarting development of Dawei SEZ. One will focus on problems encountered with ITD for the initial phase, while the second task force will focus on upgrading an existing 150-kilometer road connecting the SEZ to Htee Khee.
At $8 billion, Dawei SEZ will be one of the biggest mega-projects in Southeast Asia once complete. Development of the initial phase alone would cost more than $1 billion.
The Dawei SEZ project is one of three SEZ projects in Myanmar. Currently, Thilawa SEZ in southern Yangon is the only one in operation while Kyaukphyu SEZ in Rakhine has stalled due to a deadlock in stakeholder negotiations between China’s CITIC-led consortium and the Myanmar government.