A hydropower project involving the government and International Group of Entrepreneur, better known as IGE, is less than one-quarter finished after almost nine years of work, the Ministry of Electric Power has revealed.But Deputy Minister U Myint Zaw insisted Thatay hydropower project, about 19 kilometres north of Thandwe in southern Rakhine State, would be finished by 2018-19.

It will have a maximum generation capacity of more than 100 megawatts and is expected to produce up to 386 million kilowatt hours a year.

He told the Pyithu Hluttaw on January 30 the K45.62 billion (US$53.4 million) budget for the project was adequate and the project had been delayed because of difficulties digging tunnels for the dam due to the “geological complexity” of the area.

Speaking in response to a question from U Aye Mauk, the representative for Mahlaing, the deputy minister said IGE is working together with the Hydropower Implementation Department on two diversion tunnels and sluice gate. IGE is owned by U Nay Aung and U Pyi Aung, the sons of former Minister for Industry 1 U Aung Thaung, who is now a Pyithu Hluttaw representative.

Earlier reports suggest the project was to be implemented by an Indian company with a $60 million loan from the Indian government’s Exim Bank.

U Myint Zaw said the government did not plan to change the project into a build, operate transfer or joint venture to speed up the construction process.

After the deputy minister’s response, Pyithu Hluttaw Speaker Thura U Shwe Mann said the value of the hydropower project was “questionable” and criticised the deputy minister’s overly technical response, which he said was hard for MPs to understand.

“What MPs and the people want to know is not the way it is done but the result: when it will be finished or, if necessary, how much money we will have to allocate to finish it, for example,” he said.

“Electricity generation is extremely important in the current circumstances. This project started in 2004 so it has been nine years as of 2013. It is 23 percent completed and if we let this project continue it will go well beyond the tenure of this government, until 2018-19. So it is a questionable project.”

Thura U Shwe Mann said parliamentary committees should review government projects that are in progress “as a collaborative effort” and recommend the prioritisation of particular projects that can bring the most benefit “for the people and country”.

“We discussed [Thatay dam] based on a submission [from an MP] so nobody knows how many similar projects need to be dealt with. Because it is time to discuss and assess projects, as well as budgetary and taxation matters submitted by the Union Government to the Pyidaungsu Hluttaw, the relevant committee should review projects seriously,” the Speaker said.

He said projects that have not begun should be vetted to assess whether they should continue “based on the difficulties and potential benefits”.

“Committees will have to assess which electricity project, for example, should have been completed or needs more funds to be completed it. If funds are scattered among all electricity projects under construction, no particular projects are completed, delaying improved electricity generation,” he said.

“Whatever project is executed, it uses public fund so should be beneficial to the people and the country … the hluttaw committees should review the projects that are needed and arrange for them to be completed in as short a time as possible.”

Translated by Thit Lwin