Myanmar’s reformist president said on Friday that his country’s recent clearing of billions of dollars of foreign debt is its first step toward ending its least-developed nation status.
President Thein Sein said in his second radio address to the nation that his government has successfully negotiated with international financial institutions and donor countries to clear more than US$6 billion in decades-old debt.
He said he told parliament he would try his best to help Myanmar’s economy grow and end its least-developed nation status, and clearing the debt was the first move in achieving this.
Since taking power in 2011 as an elected president, Thein Sein has instituted political reforms after almost five decades of repressive military rule. That has prompted Western countries to ease long-standing political and economic sanctions against Myanmar.
Thein Sein has declared that his government’s second stage of reforms will focus on economic growth.
Clearing the debt will allow Myanmar access to new much-needed aid to jump-start its lagging economy.
Myanmar, then called Burma, was declared a least-developed nation by the UN in 1987. The status is given to countries with the lowest indicators of socio-economic development according to the UN’s Human Development Index.
In his speech, Thein Sein said Norway, Japan and other countries that agreed to write off part of Myanmar’s debt burden “have proved themselves as good friends of Myanmar in crucial times and we have to acknowledge their assistance.”
The World Bank and the Asian Development Bank cleared Myanmar’s outstanding debt to them of about US$900 million with a bridge loan from the Japan Bank for International Cooperation on Jan. 27. It allows them to make new development loans to Myanmar.