World Bank aids Myanmar power project

The World Bank approved Tuesday aid for a power plant project in Myanmar aimed at boosting electricity production in one of Asia's poorest countries.

The Bank's board of executive directors authorized a $140 million interest-free loan to the Myanmar authorities, the development lender said in a statement.

The credit is from the International Development Association, the institution's fund for the world's poorest countries.

"The World Bank will support the installation of a modern, high-efficiency power plant in Mon State, as part of Myanmar's power expansion plan and the cornerstone of the World Bank Group's support for Myanmar's energy sector," the Bank said.

New gas turbines, replacing aging ones, are expected to produce 250 percent more electricity with the same amount of gas and reduce emissions.

"The project is the first step to bringing more and cleaner electricity to the people of Myanmar," the Bank said.

Currently, more than a quarter of the population lives below the poverty line, and the electrification rate is among the lowest in Southeast Asia.

In Myanmar, more than 70 percent of the people have no access to electricity.

Delivering reliable energy services to those in need "will be essential to end extreme poverty and build shared prosperity," said Axel van Trotsenburg, vice president of the World Bank's East Asia Pacific Regional operations.

The Bank said the project was part of its strategy in Myanmar, which is focused on delivering quick benefits to communities "in support of the government's people-centered reforms."

Myanmar has seen sweeping democratic and economic reforms since a quasi-civilian government replaced the military regime in 2011.

Under military rule, Myanmar was a pariah state largely isolated from the rest of the world and subject to heavy international sanctions.