Wed 27 Jul 2005
Filed under: Inside Burma,News
The Burmese government’s decision to forgo the Asean chairmanship in 2006 means millions of US dollars invested in developing and beautifying Rangoon may go to waste.
Since early 2003, the junta has sped up several development projects designed to revamp the city, including the construction of apartments to house Asean delegates-worth 2 billion kyat (about US $1.8 million)-and the National Convention Centre, designed to host the 2006 summit and reportedly worth a similar amount.
An overhaul of Kandawgyi Park in the center of Rangoon also began in 2003 and was expected to finish in time for the 2006 summit. The development was thought to be worth at least US $5 million. The extension of the Yangon [Rangoon] International Airport is believed to have been started in preparation for the summit and is due for completion in July 2006.
Across Rangoon, high-rise buildings have been cropping up since early 2003 after the Yangon City Development Council fast-tracked building permits in an attempt to refurbish the capital.
A Rangoon-based journalist told The Irrawaddy the government had â€œeven ordered [taxi] drivers not to chew beetle nuts and spit on the road,â€ or urinate in public places to prevent the city from looking dirty.
Burmese economists had hailed the coming summit as a means to kick-start the economy and increase the country’s employment levels, with well-known economist Dr Maung Maung Soe telling The Myanmar Times: â€œI certainly think it is true that employment . . . will have increased a lot as a result of the coming summit, and I think that this will give the economy enough of a boost to get some momentum going.â€
But the government’s substantial development investments are likely to be seen as a waste after their decision to give up the Asean chair was announced on Tuesday.
One high profile Burmese developer and a member of the Myanmar Construction Entrepreneurs Association said he believed developments in Rangoon would slow and projects planned for completion in 2006 would now take longer.
â€œThose developments [designed to beautify the city before the summit] will now maybe not be finished until 2007 or 2008,â€ he said.
Several developments along Kaba Aye Pagoda road-one of the main arteries from the airport to downtown Rangoon-have sat empty, and in some cases unfinished, since 2003 when they were built to give Rangoon a modern look.
The government’s decision to relinquish the Asean chair has compounded property developers’ worst fears-development levels in the capital have been unsustainable and the oversupply of housing may further depress the ailing market.