World Bank returns to Burma amid criticism

2 October 2012

After leaving over suspended debt repayment in the late 1980s, the World Bank officially returned to Burma, also known as Myanmar, in early August. It signed off $85 million in grants, but no loans will be approved until the $400 million Burma still owes to the Bank are cleared. Concerns remain that the Bank is failing to engage constructively and transparently with civil society (see Update 80). In August, 48 Burmese civil society organisations, including minority ethnic groups complained to the Bank about the consultation process for the interim strategy note (ISN) for Burma, which outlines the Bank’s plans for the next 18 months. The letter argues that the process was “flawed” and that “the Bank’s re-engagement activities in our country … have been rushed, secretive and top-down.” In early September, the groups presented demands to Bank staff, saying “neither reforms nor peace are as far-reaching as the ISN summary suggests.”