World Bank ends 25-year hold on Myanmar, grants millions


A monk and his son feed seagulls at a jetty along the Yangon river ahead of the parliamentary elections on March 29, 2012 in Yangon, Myanmar.


Paula Bronstein

The World Bank has pledged a grant of $80 million to help alleviate poverty and provide basic services to rural communities in Myanmar, the first such aid promised by the powerful lending group in a quarter-century. 

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The breakthrough grant, approved Thursday, is aimed at providing "quick benefits to the poor and vulnerable" in Myanmar, one of the poorest countries in the region.

The funding is set up to allow local communities to pick what they need most, whether that be "roads, bridges, irrigation systems, schools, health clinics or rural markets," according to the World Bank statement

The United States lifted decades-long sanctions on Myanmar last month in response to groundbreaking political reforms there. 

"I am heartened by the reforms that have been taking place in Myanmar and encourage the government to continue to push forward with their efforts," World Bank President Jim Yong Kim said in the statement.

The World Bank is set to provide an additional $165 million once the nation has repaid its debts, regional vice president Pamela Cox told reporters today, according to BBC News

Myanmar's economy is struggling to recover from the devastating effect of years of international sanctions and owes the institution some $400 million, reported Agence-France Presse

About one-third of Myanmar's population live in extreme poverty in a country once known as the "rice bowl of Asia" in reference to its rich agricultural resources, said AFP