YANGON • Myanmar has formed a high-level committee and task force to restart and speed up the Dawei Special Economic Zone (SEZ) project in the southern Tanintharyi region, which was suspended for years.
The committee for the implementation of a Myanmar-Thai joint project - which will link the Andaman Sea to Bangkok and the Gulf of Thailand - is chaired by Vice-President Henry Van Thio, the official Global New Light of Myanmar reported yesterday.
Over the last few months, the SEZ committee has had more interactions with Italian-Thai Development (ITD), which is one of the lead firms in a consortium of private developers that signed a concession agreement with the government in 2015.
The consortium consists of ITD, Japanese-Thai joint venture Rojana Industrial Park and LNG Plus International, which is also from Thailand.
Myanmar and Thailand first signed a memorandum of understanding to develop the area in 2008. Two years later, Myanmar granted a 60-year concession to ITD to develop a deep-sea port, industrial estate, and road and rail links to Thailand's Kanchanaburi.
Owing to financial difficulties, ITD withdrew from the agreement in 2013 before re-signing the concession agreement in 2015.
Located 374km south of Yangon, Dawei was, until recently, cut off from the commercial capital.
Now, with investment flooding into the coastal region, ITD is providing a link where only disconnected logging tracks once existed.
The highway, which is part of the project, would link Dawei with Bangkok and the Greater Mekong sub-region, while the deep-sea port would link Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam with India, the Middle East, Europe and Africa, significantly shortening the time of transportation and eliminating the need to ship around Singapore through the Malacca Strait.
The SEZ would create hundreds of thousands of jobs and contribute up to 5 per cent of Myanmar's gross domestic product by 2045, according to Roland Berger, the consultancy firm advising Myanmar's government on the Dawei development.
The initial phase involves building a small port, power plants, the two-lane road to Thailand, an LNG terminal, a township, a telecommunications landline and an industrial estate.
While this phase will target labour-intensive industries such as textiles and food processing, the long-term masterplan should attract other industries to the SEZ, including the automotive, steel, electronics and electric goods, rubber, metals, chemicals, refinery, fertilisers, plastics and pharmaceutical sectors.
The region is home to only 1.41 million people.
XINHUA, THE NATION/ASIA NEWS NETWORK