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APAC

World Bank taking 'extra cautious' approach toward Myanmar: Malpass

FILE PHOTO: World Bank President David Malpass responds to a question from a reporter during an opening press conference at the IMF and World Bank's 2019 Annual Fall Meetings of finance ministers and bank governors, in Washington, U.S., October 17, 2019. REUTERS/Mike Theiler/File Photo

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The World Bank is taking an “extra cautious” stance toward future engagement with Myanmar after the country’s military seized power but is continuing to execute existing projects there, World Bank President David Malpass said on Thursday.

Malpass told reporters that the multilateral development lender has no new Myanmar projects in the pipeline and will be looking for guidance from its shareholders as to how to move forward. The bank had previously taken a cautious approach because of issues with Myanmar’s treatment of Rohingya Muslims, he added.

Western governments, including those with substantial World Bank shareholdings, have condemned the Feb. 1 overthrow and detention of Myanmar’s elected leader Aung San Suu Kyi, which has sparked daily mass protests.

Britain and Canada on Thursday joined the United States in imposing sanctions on Myanmar’s ruling generals, while Japan joined U.S., Indian and Australian calls for democracy to be restored quickly in Myanmar

“The way I would characterize our current position is extra cautious,” Malpass said. “I don’t want to call it a pause, but we don’t have things in the pipeline working on Myanmar, but we’re continuing to execute on the past projects as we implement them.”

The World Bank approved over $350 million in new loans and grants here to Myanmar last year to aid the country's coronavirus pandemic efforts, bolstering its health response and aiding farmers.

These included a $50 million loan in April 2020 to increase hospital preparedness, limit the spread of COVID-19, treat patients and protect health workers. Myanmar also got an $8 million grant from the bank’s Global Pandemic Emergency Financing Facility.

Another $100 million loan for essential health services access was approved at the end of May and a $200 million International Development Association loan to support farmers, boost their market access and lift rural employment was approved in June.

Reporting by David Lawder; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Jonathan Oatis

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