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Business

World Bank endorses first grant to Myanmar in 25 years

The World Bank has approved a multi-million-dollar grant for Myanmar to support reform endeavors in the country formally known as Burma. It's the first financial aid provided to the nation in over two decades.

The World Bank on Friday approved an $80 million (62 million euros) grant to Myanmar in recognition of the Asian country's recent reform drive. The bank said the money was primarily meant to help poverty alleviation in the country formally known as Burma.

"It will empower rural communities to choose investments they need most such as roads, bridges, irrigation systems, schools, health clinics or rural markets," the World Bank said in a statement.

It said the project would initially focus on 15 townships nationwide with poverty as the key criterion for selection. The grant marks the first financial aid by the World Bank to Myanmar since the army staged a bloody crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrators in 1988.

Overdue debt a major hurdle

President Thein Sein has recently overseen a series of reforms since taking office last year, including the release of political prisoners.

"I'm heartened by the reforms that have been taking place in Myanmar and encourage the government to continue to push forward their efforts," said World Bank President Jim Yong Kim.

The West has already begun rolling back sanctions, with foreign firms lining up to invest in Myanmar and the exploration of its vast natural resources.

The full resumption of international financial aid to the Asian country is still being hampered by the over $400 million in arrears which the country has not yet paid back to creditors. The World Bank has teamed up with the Japanese government and the Asian Development Bank to clear arrears - overdue debt - in early 2013.

hg/kms (dpa, AFP)