Myanmar would need to take a strong governmental role, is to accelerate the China-Myanmar Economic Corridor (CMEC) as it becomes an active part of China’s Belt & Road Initiative (BRI), following the suspension of a controversial hydropower dam venture in 2011, a senior Burmese Economist has suggested.

Dr. U Myint, formerly Chief Economic Adviser to former Burmese leader Thein Sein, said the previous and present Myanmar governments have taken different approaches to engaging China over large-scale infrastructure projects.

“This apparently inconsistent policy has the potential to cause confusion and anxiety among the Myanmar public and implementing officials, who are usually not included in or consulted on decisions related to investment or infrastructure projects.

Past experiences in dealing with China may also cause scepticism on the part of both the public and bureaucrats,” Dr U Myint wrote in a guest publication for Singapore’s ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute published Tuesday.

Myanmar suspended the Myitsone dam project with China in 2011, it was under the Union Solidarity & Development Party government led by Mr Thein Sein. After his administration ended in March 2016, the question of whether the project should be resumed became a heated and emotional issue, Dr U Myint said.

In 2018, Myanmar’s democratically-elected National League for Democracy government and signed a memorandum of understanding with China for the CMEC project, as part of plans to bring Myanmar closer into the Belt & Road Orbit. A related agreement to develop a deep-sea port at Kyaukphyu in southern Rakhine State, together with a special economic zone, was signed in November 2018.