Myanmar and Japan agreed to start work next year on a huge industrial zone near Yangon, officials from the two countries said yesterday, as the impoverished nation hungrily eyes foreign investment. The 2,400 hectare (6,000 acre) Thilawa project will include a port and industrial park and be up and running in 2015, according to Japan’s Ministry for Economic, Trade and Industries (METI).

“It’s not an easy task but we will make no mistakes. Both of our countries share the common goal to set up the joint venture in 2013 and to launch the commercial operation in 2015,” said METI vice minister Nobuhiko Sasaki after signing a memorandum of understanding in Yangon.

Former junta-ruled Myanmar craves investment to spur growth and boost its dilapidated infrastructure, while export-reliant Japan is hunting new opportunities in the resource-rich nation to overset sluggish domestic growth.

Tokyo has already written off massive debts owed by Myanmar and Japanese media last month said it would pledge a fresh $615 million in loans, a significant portion for the Thilawa project—although no final figures have been released.

Myanmar’s deputy minister of national planning and economic development, Set Aung, said the zone would help his nation “leapfrog” its richer neighbours.