Myanmar airport project delayed by four years on fund shortage

Artist impression of Hanthawaddy International Airport

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 on Friday.

A South Korean company first planned to build the Hanthawaddy International Airport on an old World War Two Japanese airfield near the town of Bago, about 100 km (60 miles) north of the commercial city Yangon.

However, the project was abandoned in 1994, soon after a groundbreaking ceremony.

The state-run Global New Light of Myanmar newspaper said the country's fourth international airport was now expected to open in seven years.

"The launch date of the fourth international airport in the country, had 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 a difficulty in seeking fund.

"Frankly, major construction work still hasn't started at the site as talks are still going on for the ODA," said the official who declined to be identified as he not an authorised spokesman. He declined to 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.

The project attracted criticism because of the lack of a plan to transfer passengers to Yangon.

In 2014, a Japan-Singapore consortium called Yongnam-CAPE-JGCC won a bid to build the airport at a cost of $1.5 billion with 49 percent 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 in 2015, up from 3 million targeted in 2014 and compared with 2.04 million in 2013 and 1.05 million in 2012.

The airports at both Yangon and Mandalay are being upgraded and expanded. – Reuters

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