WB OKs funds to Myanmar as Muslims continue to suffer

Updated 03 November 2012
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WB OKs funds to Myanmar as Muslims continue to suffer

SITTWE, Myanmar: Despite the massacre and atrocities perpetrated on the Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar, the World Bank has announced fresh aid to the government. Muslims in Myanmar are being killed and forced to flee their villages and cities. More than 100,000 people have been displaced since June in two major spasms of violence in western Rakhine state.
The World Bank announced yesterday it will inject $245 million of aid into Myanmar to support its reform drive, resuming assistance for the former pariah nation after a quarter-century absence, officials said Friday. The Bank has earmarked $80 million for a grant and $165 million for a no-interest loan for poverty alleviation schemes, including microfinance, according to the bank’s office in Yangon.
Infrastructure projects in villages in rural areas would be among the beneficiaries, the bank said after its board of directors in Washington approved a new strategy for helping the former junta-ruled country.
“We want the people of Myanmar and the poor in particular to see the reform can lead to real benefits,” said Kanthan Shankar, the World Bank’s country manager for Myanmar.
“We are here to help Myanmar reduce poverty by strengthening institutions... supporting projects for the poor,” he added, citing building the capacity of banks and providing funds for microfinance and infrastructure as priorities.
Despite rich natural resources, almost one-third of Myanmar’s population lives below the poverty line, according to the World Bank.
The Washington-based institution closed its Yangon office in 1987 and ceased new lending after the then-ruling junta stopped making payments on debts worth hundreds of millions of dollars left from previous programs.
A hurdle for the resumption of aid has been how to deal with the unpaid money, including arrears of almost $400 million owed to the World Bank.
The Bank, which opened a new office in Yangon in August, said Friday that it was working with Japan and the Asian Development Bank to resolve the issue and expected to clear the arrears in early 2013.
Myanmar President Thein Sein has overseen a series of dramatic reforms since taking office last year, including the release of political prisoners and the election of Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi to Parliament.
In response, the West has begun rolling back sanctions and foreign firms are lining up to invest in the country, eying its huge natural resources, large population and strategic location between China and India.
Japan agreed in April to forgive $3.8 billion of Myanmar’s bilateral debt, as donors rally to help the nation’s battered economy.
Myanmar also owes roughly $500 million to the Asian Development Bank, which is returning to the country for the first time since 1988.
The country was once known as the “rice bowl of Asia” because of its agricultural riches. But economic mismanagement during nearly 50 years of direct military rule left the country deeply impoverished.


France's Macron vows Iran will 'never' possess nuclear weapons

Updated 25 April 2018
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France's Macron vows Iran will 'never' possess nuclear weapons

  • French President Emmanuel Macron drew on the “shared bond” of US-French relations
  • Macron told Congress that Iran will “never” be allowed to develop atomic weapons

WASHINGTON: French President Emmanuel Macron drew Wednesday on the “shared bond” of US-French relations to call for a rejection of isolationism and instead for the countries to bond together anew for a 21st century security.
Macron opened a joint meeting of Congress, saying “the American and French people have had a rendezvous with freedom.”
The French president received a warm, three-minute standing ovation from US lawmakers before delivering — in English — a rare address to Congress, which he hailed as a “sanctuary of democracy.”
Macron shook hands with senators and representatives, and pressed his hand to his heart several times before a speech expected to touch on the two countries’ shared history and international challenges.
“Our two nations are rooted in the same soil, grounded in the ideals of the American and French revolutions,” Macron said.
“We have worked together for the universal ideals of liberty, tolerance, and equal rights.”
Speaking almost directly to President Donald Trump, Macron quickly turned to the top issues of Syria, free trade and the Paris accord on climate change — issues where he and Trump disagree — as he urged the United States not to retreat from world affairs, but to embrace its historic role as a military leader of world affairs.
“We are living in a time of anger and fear because of these current global threats,” Macron told lawmakers. “You can play with fears and angers for a time, but they do not construct anything.”
With a nod to great American leaders, including former President Franklin Roosevelt, he warned against sowing seeds of fear.
“We have two possible ways ahead. We can choose isolationism, withdrawal and nationalism. It can be tempting to us as a temporary remedy to our fears,” he said. “But closing the door to the world will not stop the evolution of the world.”
But he said international engagement was the only solution.
“This requires — more than ever — the United States’ involvement as your role was decisive for creating and guarding today’s free world. The United States is the one who invented this multilateralism. You are the one now who has to help preserve and reinvent it,” he said.
Macron told Congress that Iran will “never” be allowed to develop atomic weapons, as the fate of a landmark 2015 nuclear accord with Tehran hangs in the balance.
“Our objective is clear,” Macron told lawmakers on the final day of a state visit during which he and President Donald Trump called for a broader “deal” that would also limit Iran’s ballistic missile program and support for militant groups across the Middle East.
“Iran shall never possess any nuclear weapons. Not now. Not in five years. Not in 10 years. Never,” Macron said.
Macron has pushed for a new approach that would see the United States and Europe agree to block any Iranian nuclear activity until 2025 and beyond, address Iran’s ballistic missile program and generate conditions for a political solution to contain Iran in Yemen, Syria, Iraq and Lebanon.
“Whatever the decision of the United States will be, we will not leave the floor to the actions of rogues. We will not leave the floor to this conflict of powers in the Middle East,” Macron told Congress.
“I think we can work together to build this comprehensive deal for the whole region, for our people, because I think it fairly addresses our concerns,” he said.
On climate change, Macron told US lawmakers there is “no Planet B,” acknowledging a disagreement with President Donald Trump, who pulled his nation from the landmark Paris accord.
“Let us face it. There is no Planet B,” Macron said in an address to Congress on the final day of his state visit to the United States.
“We have disagreements between the United States and France. It may happen, like in all families,” he said — but such differences would be short-term.
“We’re just citizens of the same planet,” Macron said.
“With business leaders and local communities, let us work together in order to make our planet great again and create new jobs and new opportunities while safeguarding our Earth. And I’m sure one day, the United States would come back and join the Paris agreement.”
Trump said last year that his country would withdraw from the accord, which aims to reduce damaging emissions and was signed by almost 200 countries.
Macron also lashed out against fake news — and gave a tongue-in-cheek apology for violating President Donald Trump’s “copyright” on the term.
He warned that lies disseminated online are threatening freedoms worldwide, saying: “Without reason, without truth, there is no real democracy because democracy is about true choices and rational decisions.”
Macron tasked his government this year with drafting a law to punish false information distributed during election campaigns. Macron says his presidential campaign last year was a victim of fake news, notably accusing Russian news sites RT and Sputnik.
He also warned against “terrorist propaganda that spreads its fanaticism on the Internet.”
In recounting common bonds from the earliest days of the United States, Macron talked about a meeting between Ben Franklin and the French philosopher Voltaire, “kissing each other’s cheeks.”
In an apparent reference to his friendly meetings this week with Trump, he said, “It can remind you of something.”
Macron was speaking as part of his visit to the United States. It’s the first time a president from France has addressed Congress in more than a decade, but follows a tradition of foreign leaders appearing at the US Capitol.