Friday, September 22, 2017

Foreign bank account rumours draw govt ire

Official moved to combat rumours that the World Bank refused to cancel government debt after it had learned Myanmar stashed some US$11 billion in foreign bank accounts.

Myanmar has foreign reserves worth $7.6 billion in overseas bank accounts, according to Central Bank officials, denying reports spread in recent weeks by local media and online that the figure was much larger.

Finance minister U Win Shein also claimed the World Bank had not refused to cancel government arrears after learning of Myanmar’s foreign accounts.

“We intend to transparently publish [information pertaining to the accounts], but the rumors concerning the World Bank are totally wrong and we are willing to show evidence,” he said at a Nay Pyi Taw press conference on September 20.

Myanmar inked a deal with the Japan Bank for International Cooperation in January for a bridge loan intended to allow the country to pay back its $900 million debt with the World Bank and Asian Development Bank.

Myanmar had originally stopped making payments on the debt in 1987, but by clearing up arrears the country will be able to access credit from the World Bank in the future.

“The World Bank did not totally cancel the debt because [Myanmar] is not one of the poorest and most highly indebted countries,” said U Win Shein.

Myanmar holds foreign reserves in corresponding banks in many different countries, he added.

A World Bank press release earlier this month also downplayed concern from Myanmar holding money in accounts abroad.

“It is common practice for governments to hold reserves in foreign bank accounts in order to facilitate importation of goods and services and management of the exchange rate,” it said in a statement.

According to local media, Jelson Garcia of Bank Information Center claimed that World Bank decided not to cancel Myanmar’s debt entirely after learning of its large foreign accounts. The World Bank stated in the release that Mr Garcia does not represent the bank.