Clear debts and we'll help, ADB tells Burma
The Asian Development Bank says it will only offer financial aid to Burma once nearly $US500 million in debt is repaid.
ADB president Haruhiko Kuroda said debt accumulated with the ADB, World Bank and other bilateral donors was a "big hurdle" to restarting financial assistance.
"And that must be cleared before we can start financial assistance," he said.
Mr Kuroda said unlike bilateral donors, multilateral lending agencies such as the ADB had little wiggle room to waive off debts.
"I would like to emphasise that as far as multilaterals are concerned, we have not much flexibility," Mr Kuroda said.
But he stressed the Manila-based bank was prepared for "constructive engagement" with the government in Burma.
Mr Kuroda noted that Burma was the fourth most populous country in South East Asia, and this had a huge potential labour pool that presented opportunities for investment.
The country also has big reserves of untapped natural resources, Mr Kuroda said.
"The potential for the Myanmar [Burma] economy is really huge," he said.
"We are hopeful that with the engagement by the international community, including ADB, the Myanmar [Burma] economy can be developed rapidly and the living standards of its people can be substantially improved," he said.
Burma was an original member of the ADB, which has been providing soft loans and grants to the region's developing countries since its founding in 1966.
The ADB cut off Burma from aid in 1988, when the military regime violently crushed a public uprising led by students and activists.
The World Bank announced on Thursday that it would open an office in Burma in June.