Pragmatism raises hope for Myitsone Dam

Source:Global Times Published: 2016/8/18 23:38:39 Last Updated: 2016/8/19 7:51:53

Myanmar's de facto head of state Aung San Suu Kyi will find it hard to avoid dealing with the suspension of the China-financed Myitsone Dam project while she is in China on her state visit.

The Myanmese President U Htin Kyaw announced the establishment of a special review committee for the dam last Friday, a move believed to be a signal of lifting the suspension on the project. During Suu Kyi's visit, the issue will be discussed again, but a real breakthrough probably won't happen.

As long as talks can be put back on a pragmatic track regardless of ideological differences and free from Western countries' intervention, it is only a matter of time before the project will be resumed.

Myitsone Dam's installed capacity will make it the 15th-largest hydropower station in the world. Once built, the dam can fix Myanmar's long-standing shortage of power in one go, even generating a surplus of electricity for export. Besides, the project can create numerous jobs for local communities. Myitsone Dam is without doubt a key project for the Myanmese economy.

U Thein Sein government, under public pressure, halted the construction of the dam in 2011, which cost Chinese financiers and contractors dearly. The major reason for the suspension is cited as environmental concerns.

China has drawn extensive experience about how to balance environmental preservation and economic development. As Suu Kyi has stressed her focus on economic growth, she will reason with Myanmese society about resuming the dam construction.

China signed the project with the former military government, so it is inevitable it would become a target of media accusations in Myanmar's process of democratization.

The past few years have seen a rising trend of aversion to China, which, many Myanmese claim, is exploiting Myanmar's resources by joint projects. The misguided thought is the result of people's impulse at the initial stage of democratization and the manipulation of the Western media.

Now Myanmar has regained political stability, and the opposition National League for Democracy (NLD) has become the ruling party, which hence must be responsible for the country's development. The NLD portrayed a promising vision for the Myanmese, and the vision cannot be realized without sufficient electricity, public health, job opportunities and social welfare.

Myitsone Dam does not have to be reviewed from a political perspective any more. Economic interests have become the key. In other parts of the world, most China-invested infrastructure projects suspended due to regime change were resumed finally. This pattern will repeat for Myitsone.


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