Myanmar To Follow Malaysia, Will Ask China To Downsize Port Project Under Its One Belt One Road Initiative
Myanmar To Follow Malaysia, Will Ask China To Downsize Port Project Under Its One Belt One Road  InitiativeMyanmar State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi and Chinese President Xi Jinping. (ROLEX DELA PENA/AFP/Getty Images)

Amid growing backlash against China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), Myanmar has said it will ask Beijing to downsize the special economic zone project it is working on in the country’s Rakhine state, Nikkei reports.

China is building a special zone in Kyaukpyu, located on Myanmar’s Indian Ocean coast, at a cost of $10 billion. The project includes a 1,000-hectare industrial park and a port, which once complete will be the country’s largest.

"Lessons that we learned from our neighboring countries, that over investment is not good sometimes,” the portal quoted Myanmar’s Planning and Finance Minister Soe Win as saying in an interview.

"The main thing is to get good revenue," Soe said, adding, "So at the end of the day, we may be able to repay all the debt regarding the project."

Chinese-led projects taken up under BRI have pushed many countries into a debt trap, Sri Lanka being a case in point. Myanmar's external debt at the end of 2017 was $9.6 billion, 40 per cent of which is owed to China.

Malaysia, which recently saw the first change of power since independence from Britain, has suspended the construction of the $20 billion East Coast Railway Link being built by the Chinese under the initiative.

The suspension of work comes after the newly elected government in Malaysia said it wants to renegotiate the terms of the deal signed with China.

In a letter to China Communications Construction announcing the decision, Malaysia Rail Link cited “national interest” among other reasons for the suspension of the construction of the rail project.

Malaysian finance minister Lim Guan Eng has said he will visit China soon to renegotiate the deal. According to him, construction of the rail link under the current deal is costing nearly 50 per cent more than estimates.

This decision comes amid push back against China-led projects in the region.

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