RANGOON — Japan continues to ramp up its aid assistance to Burma as it was announced on Friday that Tokyo is providing US$22 million in grants to finance Asian Development Bank (ADB) programs aimed at rural poverty reduction and improving HIV/Aids care in the country.
The ADB said in a press release that the Japan Fund for Poverty Reduction will fund a $12 million program that will “benefit at least 700,000 people in villages in [Irrawaddy] Delta, Central Dry Zone, [Tenasserim] Region, and Shan State, where some rural communities face poverty rates more than double the urban level.”
“Village infrastructure like access roads, jetties, water and irrigation facilities, schools and community health centers will be improved. New income earning opportunities will be developed in areas such as fish, shrimp and pearl farming, livestock husbandry, and production of cash crops, including garlic and chilies,” the ADB proclaimed. “Basic English skills training will allow communities to take advantage of the country’s fast growing tourism market.”
Tin Ngwe Deputy Minister for Livestock, Fisheries and Rural Development added in the release that, “The project will […] enable rural people to benefit from political and economic reforms.”
The ADB said another $10 million in Japanese funds will finance programs that “increase access and quality to health and HIV/Aids services, along fast developing economic corridors in Mon, [Karen], and Shan states, where new opportunities attract migrant workers and mobile populations.”
The bank said funding will also help improve public services for HIV/AIDS patients and help improve reaching out to at-risk populations. An estimated 200,000 people in Burma are thought to be living with HIV, according to the ADB.
Japan’s government, firms and influential Japanese charity the Nippon Foundation have been rapidly expanding their activities in Burma ever since the country began implementing political reforms under President Thein Sein and US-led international sanctions against the country were lifted.
Last year, Japan wrote off billions of dollars of outstanding Burmese debt and helped Naypyidaw clear its arrears with the World Bank and ADB so that the multilateral banks can resume lending and implementation of grant programs.