RANGOON — Britain’s newly appointed international development minister said on Monday that the United Kingdom will increase its development aid to Burma by more than a third in the next fiscal year.
Minister of State at the Department for International Development (DFID) Desmond Swayne is visiting Burma for the first time after his appointment last month, and told reporters in Rangoon that the former colonial power would be increasing its aid to Burma to US$136 million.
Britain, which has embraced the reformist government of President Thein Sein, has already doubled its aid to Burma from $50 million in 2013-14 to $100 million for the current fiscal year.
“We are increasing the budget because we believe this is a very important time for your country, and there are great opportunities to be had here, and that’s why we’re very keen to be able to assist more,” Desmond Swayne said.
Swayne is visiting the country from Monday to Wednesday this week, spending one day in Rangoon before traveling to Kachin State, where he will visit a camp for internally displaced persons (IDPs) affected by fighting between the Burma Army and the Kachin Independence Army, according to Gavin McFillivray, head of DFID’s Burma office.
“Minister will be visiting an agricultural project by the LIFT project, and he is going to an IDP camp and a voter registration pilot project for the general election in Myitkyina tomorrow,” he said.
Swayne will also meet with Health Minister Than Aung and President’s Office Minister Soe Thane in Naypyidaw and pay a visit to Burma’s Parliament.
During his stay in the former capital, Swayne met with opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi and visited a social enterprise making handbags in Hlaing Tharyar Township that received a microfinance loan from World Vision, which DFID funds.
He also visited a reproductive health clinic in Shwe Pyi Tha Township run by Marie Stopes International with funding from DFID,
“It’s a very impressive setup,” Swayne said of the clinic. “I’m very interested to see that it’s a free service and that there are satisfied customers.
“Certainly our intention is to see an extension of health care services available to a large element of the population, that’s certainly one of our objectives.”
Marie Stopes has opened four clinics in Rangoon since 2009, and DFID has pledged more than $5 million of funding to the project from 2011 to 2016.