ADB pledges $1.75 bln in loans to Myanmar over 5 years from 2017

YANGON, June 15 (Reuters) - The Asian Development Bank (ADB) will lend Myanmar about $1.75 billion in low-interest loans from 2017 over five years to improve infrastructure, education and for rural development, it said on Wednesday.

The ADB’s president, Takehiko Nakao, told reporters in Yangon on Wednesday the bank would increase its annual lending to $350 million from about $150 million from 2017.

The spending will be aligned with the government’s priorities, still being hammered out for inclusion in a five-year economic plan, he said.

“She stressed the importance of infrastructure-building, especially power and road connectivity,” Nakao said after talks with de-facto government leader, Nobel Peace prize winner, Aung San Suu Kyi.

He said the bank’s projects would also focus on educating workers and providing jobs for Myanmar’s young and numerous working-age people.

“We share the importance of building electricity network to provide energy to all villages and households, not just for economic development but also for empowering people,” said the former Japanese vice finance minister for international affairs.

About 70 percent of Myanmar’s 51.5 million people live in rural areas, according to the United Nations, but basic infrastructure like roads and electricity is poor in many places.

Coming from a low base after decades of economic mismanagement by the military, Myanmar boasts one of the world’s fastest growing economies, expanding at 7-8 percent in the years since the military relinquished direct control in 2011.

Myanmar held credible parliamentary elections in November, when Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy won a landslide. The party took power in April following a largely smooth transfer of power.

The ADB, which is based in Manila and is dominated by Japan and the United States, is focusing in Myanmar on investment in electricity, roads, irrigation, telecoms and urban infrastructure, including water and sanitation.

Nakao said the bank would also support curriculum reform in secondary education and technical and vocational education and training.

He said the $350 million a year figure was not set in stone and could rise, depending on the needs and the pace of implementation of the projects. (Reporting by Antoni Slodkowski; Editing by Robert Birsel)