July – October 2004


Burma Country Update #1


November 9, 2004



The Burma Country Update provides information about recent developments, civil society concerns, and policy updates related to the World Bank (WB) and Asian Development Bank (ADB). The updates are emailed approximately every three months to a list of individuals and civil society organizations in Burma and abroad who are interested in monitoring current or planned MDB investment and project impacts in the country. Similar Updates are also being developed for Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Thailand, and Vietnam. If you would like to be included or removed from this list, please email Mishka Zaman. Updates are also posted on BIC’s website at


The Bank Information Center (BIC) is an independent, non-profit, non-governmental organization that aims to empower citizens in developing countries to influence World Bank and other Multilateral Development Bank (MDB) activities in a manner that fosters social justice and ecological sustainability.  BIC advocates for greater citizen participation, transparency, and public accountability. For more information about BIC, see

 I.   Recent News and Developments

EU to vote against extending loans by international organizations to Burma

On October 11, the EU ministers agreed to vote against extending loans by international organizations to Burma.  The EU Foreign Ministers also reconfirmed the expansion of assistance in health and education to the Burmese people.  The Council of the European Union also decided to adopt measures that will strengthen the sanctions, including an expansion of the visa ban, a prohibition to make financial loans or credits available to listed Burmese state-owned enterprises, as well as to acquire or extend participation in these enterprises.  For the complete news summary, go to


Myanmar, India, Thailand to cooperate for highway project, will seek ADB/WB loans

Senior officials of Myanmar, India, and Thailand were due to meet in Myanmar in September to finalize the details of a trilateral highway project linking the three countries, according to the local Myanmar Times.  The 1,400-kilometer trilateral highway network, agreed by the three countries in 2002, is designed to extend to Moreh (India), Tamu (Myanmar), Myawaddy (Myanmar), and Maesot (Thailand).  A deep-sea port at Dawei, Myanmar's southern Tanintharyi division, and the Dawei-Kachanaburi road link are reportedly to be carried out in one package together with the trilateral highway project. The Indian and Thai governments will provide the estimated fund of $800 million for the highway project. More loans will be sought from the Asian Development Bank, World Bank and Japan Bank to finance the project.  (Source: Xinhua General News Service, August 16, 2004)

II.   MDB Policy Updates and Consultations

ADB releases second draft of new disclosure policy, draft now open for comments

On October 26, the ADB released the second draft of its Public Communications Policy (PCP) for a 30-day commenting period.  ADB’s second PCP draft proposes that: the minutes of Board meetings, including ED votes, be disclosed; a tentative schedule of Board meetings be disclosed up to three weeks in advance; at least two draft CSPs/RCSPs be disclosed for consultation during the development of these strategies; and that ADB work towards developing a translation framework and doing better outreach in borrowing countries through public information centers.  ADB is receiving comments on the 2nd draft at until November 24.  Comments will be used to prepare a PCP Working Paper, which will be presented to ADB’s Board of Directors in January 2005.  For more information on ADB’s PCP review, see ADB’s website on developing a new Public Communications Policy and BIC’s webpage on ADB’s disclosure policy review. 

ADB launches review of its governance and anticorruption policy implementation

The Asian Development Bank has launched a review of the implementation of its Governance Policy and Anti-corruption Policies, which hopes to improve its understanding on how effectively governance and anticorruption policies have been operationalized in its country strategies and lending activities. The outcome of the review is expected to be a Medium-Term Agenda and Action Plan for the Governance and Anticorruption Policies for 2005-2009. The ADB states that the implementation of the Governance/Anticorruption Policy Review “"is allowed to make recommendations for policy changes.".  The ADB has completed and publicly disclosed its desk review. Country level consultations have been planned in 4 countries, namely: Indonesia (Oct 26-28), Vietnam (Nov 10-12), Nepal (Nov 15-18), and the Philippines (Nov 23).  Those interested in working on the review or participating in a consultation can contact Peter Malvicini, ADB Consultant, and Asha Newsum, Principal Governance Specialist. A 2004 assessment by BIC & Terra entitled "Zero Tolerance" revealed that the ADB almost never implements its anti-corruption policy.


ADB launches review of its Private Sector Development Strategy implementation

ADB is currently reviewing the implementation of its Private Sector Development Strategy, which will assess how effectively the development strategy is being operationalized in individual developing member countries.  During the Review exercise, ADB will seek comments from internal and external stakeholders on the preliminary findings of the review.  It involves a desk-based assessment, which is currently ongoing, and an internal and external stakeholders consultation, which are going to be held in Kazakhstan, Pakistan, Vietnam, and the Philippines.  Consultations in Mongolia have already taken place. The exact date for the other consultations is yet to be determined but have started in September and will end in November. The person in charge of the review process is Graham Settle, Senior Governance Specialist. The external consultations for this review do not consist of events where all stakeholders gather, but Settle and his team are trying to approach NGOs individually, through e-mail and in meetings. 


ADB finalizing its revised proposal on its Water Policy revision

ADB has finished collecting comments from water agencies, NGOs, and other interested stakeholders regarding its Water Sector Committee’s proposed revision. ADB staff has reviewed the nineteen comments and are now finalizing a revised proposal for the approval of ADB's Board of Directors. The revised proposed paragraph is expected to be publicly disclosed before the Board discussion, expected to take place before the end of the year.  The intended revision seeks to give stakeholders only the “opportunity” to comment on such projects, in sharp contrast to the original Water Policy requiring “all government and non-government stakeholders” to agree on the justification for large water resources projects. Civil society organizations have urged the ADB President to hold true to its past commitment to the recommendations of the World Commission on Dams, which recognizes that free, prior and informed consent and other forms of public acceptance are important principles in development policy.


ADB to move forward on a Regional Cooperation Strategy and Program in South Asia

ADB has been formulating Regional Cooperation Strategy and Programs (RCSP) for specific regions/subregions in Asia, intended as a road map to guide ADB’s regional operations.  RCSPs define a five-year strategy supported initially by a 3-year program of assistance.  ADB has already completed its RCSP for the Greater Mekong Subregion (2004-2008) and Central Asia (2005-2007), and is presently formulating its RCSP for South Asia.  In April 2004, ADB and the South Asia Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) that aims to strengthen cooperation between the two institutions. The MOU will help promote mutually interested regional programs/projects and help establish linkages with other regional initiatives.


ADB remains silent on its Forest Policy revision

ADB has not commented nor released any information regarding a revised Draft Forest Policy Paper that was due to be released by July 2004 for stakeholder comments.  The June 2003 version currently available at the ADB website has, since July 2003, already been rejected by the Board of Directors.  Only a period of four weeks has been allocated for comments when the revised draft is released.  A number of concerned citizens have requested information from the ADB regarding the status of the revised Draft and other related information, but no answer has been given to date.  The June 2003 draft has already received criticisms, in that it is a step backwards from the Bank's existing 1995 Policy on Forestry


Monitoring framework for ADB’s environment policy launched

The Philippine Rural Reconstruction Movement and NGO Forum on ADB have released a publication entitled “ADB and the Environment: A Monitoring Framework for ADB’s Environment Policy.”  It is based on four case studies that evaluate the implementation of ADB's environment provisions, which are the November 2002 Environment Policy and the preceding Operations Manual Sections. The case studies are 1) the Southern Transport Development Project, Sri Lanka, 2) the Sundarbans Biodiversity Conservation Project, Bangladesh, 3) the Nucleus Agro-Enterprise Project, Papua New Guinea, and 4) the Marcopper Mining Corporation, Philippines.  The second part of the publication consists of summaries of all of the ADB's existing environmental provisions and is intended as an easy-to-use monitoring tool for affected communities or involved NGOs. 


IFC launches Review of Social and Environmental Safeguard Policies and Disclosure Policy

The International Finance Corporation has launched a fundamental revision of its “safeguard” policies – the environmental and social policy requirements that govern its lending operations. Instead of ten safeguard policies, the IFC has proposed a set of “performance standards” for its private sector clients that allow much greater flexibility in implementation.  For the disclosure policy consultations, the IFC has only released a “concept note” that represents a fundamental shift from the traditional “document-based” disclosure policy to a more “principle-based” policy. The IFC is also pursuing an extremely rapid and selective plan for engaging external stakeholders on these policy revisions, planning to engage external stakeholders for only four months. Four regional consultations are to occur between September–December 2004. The IFC will seek Board approval in February 2005. See for both draft policy papers. 


121 civil society members claim that IFC consultation process is “seriously flawed”

On September 16, 121 civil society organizations sent a letter to World Bank President James Wolfensohn and IFC Managing Director Peter Woicke, highlighting the shortcomings of the IFC’s consultation process and its draft environmental and social performance standards. Civil society organizations noted a major shift from environmental and disclosure standards that are “mandatory and compliance-based…to a mainly discretionary approach.” The letter registered two major complaints: an inadequate timeframe and the lack of available materials. The civil society organizations demanded that IFC suspend the start of the consultation process on the Safeguard Policy Update until all relevant information had been made publicly available in all appropriate languages at least 30 days prior to the first regional consultation. They also argued that IFC extend substantially the period for consultation on the first draft consultation documents. 


Launch of 'Penang Paper': A strategy report from 60 NGOs on the WB/IMF

The “60 Years of the World Bank and the IMF:  Civil Society Strategy Meeting Summary Report” has been released, which is a product of the January 2004 gathering in Penang of over 60 civil society organizations to exchange analyses, experiences, strategies, and alternatives to the policies and practices of the Bretton Woods Institutions.  Year 2004 marks the 60th anniversary of the World Bank and IMF, and the conference helped bring together civil society representatives from over 20 countries.  The summary report distills some of the key themes and messages that emerged from the vibrant discussions in Penang and presents a common agenda for moving forward. 


Indian NGOs reject proposed 2005-2008 World Bank Country Assistance Strategy for India

In a National Consultation held in New Delhi on August 7, several civil society organizations in India rejected the World Bank's draft Country Assistance Strategy (CAS) for 2005 to 2008. These organizations, representing major national alliances, rejected the CAS on the basis that the drafting process lacked transparency and adequate consultation from both Indian Parliament and the State Legislatures, and that lending is made conditional on the privatization and "reform" of key sectors. The proposed CAS, which sets an upper IBRD lending ceiling of $2.15 billion, calls for expanded Bank support for infrastructure projects, which may include large hydropower projects. Extensive state reforms, including large-scale privatization in power and agriculture, are also required of the Indian government. Noting the lack of national debate on the strategy, the National Consultation called on the Bank to withdraw the draft and re-engage in extensive consultations with civil society. 



III.   MDB Country Strategy and Project Activities in Burma


Neither the World Bank nor the Asian Development Bank has a current country strategy for Burma.  The ADB’s Regional Cooperation and Strategy Program (2004-2008) for the Greater Mekong Subregion contains some references to Burma.


Burma and the World Bank

Burma has borrowed more than $700 million from the World Bank since 1956, but there have been no World Bank loans to Burma since July 1987.  Since 1998, Burma has been in a “non-accrual status” with the World Bank, meaning that there can be no new lending until all overdue payments are cleared.  The World Bank is keeping watch on the social and economic situation in Burma and is in dialogue with UN agencies in Burma.  For a list of past World Bank projects in Burma, see


Burma and the Asian Development Bank

To date, the ADB has provided 32 loans to Burma totaling $530.9 million for 28 projects.  No loans have been provided since 1986.  In 2000, the ADB produced a Country Assistance Plan for the period of 2000 to 2002 on Burma and in 2002, started reviews of Burma’s agriculture, health, and education sectors.  The ADB is also promoting plans for a deep-sea port, highways, and a large dam to be built in Burma as part of the Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS) regional cooperation program.  In addition, the ADB provides a modest amount of technical assistance to Burma through the GMS program. 



IV.   Tools for Civil Society


Resource Book for Civil Society on Multilateral Development Banks and Burma

This Resource Book developed by the Bank Information Center helps those working toward democracy in Burma to learn about MDBs, so that as the MDBs start to operate fully in Burma, they can work to ensure that sustainable development and good governance are incorporated into MDB operations. To access the Resource Book, please visit


IFI-Burma Listserv and Updates

IFI-Burma Listserv posts articles related to development projects in Burma with particular focus on bilateral and multilateral assistance.  The IFI-Burma Updates are periodic briefing papers providing current information on issues of development assistance from international financial institutions (IFIs) to Burma.  To subscribe to the Listserv and Updates, send an email to:


World Bank Email Updates

The World Bank periodically sends out regional updates to subscribers through email.  These updates include information on recently approved projects, publications, and other major initiatives in that particular region.  Visit to subscribe to the East Asia and Pacific Regional Update.


Bank Information Center Toolkits for Activists

BIC’s Toolkits are a series of fact sheets that describe the structure, functions, policies, and procedures of the World Bank Group. The Toolkits are intended to support NGOs, grassroots social movements, and other civil society organizations in their efforts to monitor and influence World Bank-financed projects and environmental and social policies.  To view the toolkits visit:


Toolkits on the Asian Development Bank are currently under preparation and will be available in November 2004.


Please visit Bank Information Center’s Burma Project web pages at for more information on the MDBs and Burma.