Myanmar airport project still can't take off

YANGON • A long-delayed international airport project in Myanmar has been postponed again, by four years this time, because of a delay in securing funds, state media and an official source said yesterday.

A South Korean company first planned to build the Hanthawaddy International Airport on an old World War II Japanese airfield near the town of Bago, about 100km north of the commercial city Yangon. However, the project was abandoned in 1994, soon after a groundbreaking ceremony.

The Global New Light Of Myanmar reported that the airport is now expected to open in seven years. "The launch date of the fourth international airport in the country has been put off from 2018 to 2022 due to delays in getting ODA (official development assistance)," the newspaper said, citing deputy director Min Lwin Oo of the Civil Aviation Department.

A senior Transport Ministry official confirmed the project had been delayed because of difficulty in getting funding. He did not give further details.

The project was revived in 2012 when tourist arrivals were boosted by political and economic reforms after a government led by civilians took office after nearly 50 years of military rule. However, the project was criticised for lacking a plan to transfer passengers to Yangon.

Last year, a Japan-Singapore consortium called Yongnam-CAPE-JGCC won a bid to build the airport at a cost of US$1.5 billion (S$2.1 billion), with 49 per cent of that being secured through an ODA loan and the rest from private loans and the consortium. The capacity of the airport was targeted at 12 million passengers a year.

Tourist arrivals have almost exceeded the capacity of existing international airports in Yangon, the city of Mandalay and the capital Naypyitaw.

Up to five million tourists are expected to visit Myanmar this year.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 29, 2015, with the headline 'Myanmar airport project still can't take off'. Print Edition | Subscribe