The announcement on Friday that Rangoon’s divisional parliament had approved a proposal to implement a city expansion plan has caused land prices to skyrocket overnight in areas earmarked for development west of the city.
The proposal to construct residential and commercial property on 30,000 acres of farmland – located west of the Rangoon River in townships stretching from Kanaungto to Twante – was not previously disclosed to the public, local residents and MPs have said.
But within days of the announcement of the US$15 billion project, land prices have increased exponentially.
“Four years ago, the land alongside the highway to Twante was one million kyat [$1,000] per acre,” said a land broker in Rangoon, speaking to DVB on Wednesday. “Then in recent years it increased to more than 20 million kyat. This week, land prices are increasing every day. I believe some plots are going for more than 100 million kyat [$100,000] per acre now.”
He said that riverbank plots are also skyrocketing in price, and he noted that even rural and forested areas are now trading at grossly inflated values.
Rural townships scheduled to be affected by the city expansion include Kyi-Myin-Taing, Seik-Gyi-Kha-Naung-To and Ton Tay, all located five to 15km southwest and west of the Rangoon River.
Signposts offering plots of land for sale have been reported along the Twante highway, and several brokers are advertising their services in the area.
Some villagers have suggested that that several speculators “looked Chinese”, and that many carried cash to offer as deposits.
Farmer Win Myint said that about 75 percent of the land from the 55 hamlets in Ton Tay Township has already been sold.
“Only a quarter of the land remains,” he told DVB. “The rest has been sold, mostly this week. Many people have sold all their farmland, others are keeping hold of a few fields to cultivate.”
Ko Ye Aung from Seik-Gyi Kha-Naung-To said he still wanted to live on his farm, but was willing to sell it if the price was right.
“This new city project is going to take over our villages,” he said. “But if I get a good price, I will sell everything.”
Meanwhile, several Rangoon divisional parliamentarians have complained that the development project was not disclosed publicly and that the bidding process and allocation of the contract were not transparent.
U Kyaw, an MP for the New Democracy Party, said he was unsatisfied as the divisional assembly was not informed about the project.
“Without transparency, there will always be difficulties and delays,” he said. “History will tell whether the [Rangoon] government was acting in accordance with the rules or not.”
Dr Nyo Nyo Thin, an MP representing Rangoon’s Bahan Township, said she believed the project could seriously hurt local people, and questioned whether many of them had accepted the development on their own free will.
“It is unacceptable to implement this type of project so secretly,” she said. “For example, years ago in Cambodia and Indonesia, when government ministers were informed beforehand about a development, they ran out to buy the land around the project. We do not wish for that situation to happen to our country.”
Parliamentarians should have been given the opportunity to discuss the proposed city plan, she added.
However, a representative of the ruling Union Solidarity and Development Party, Kyi Kyi Mar, argued that the project will create job opportunities and said she believed the government would explain more details about the development at the appropriate time.
Other Burmese media reports have indicated that the Myanma Setana Myothit Public Company has been awarded the contract to develop the city expansion project, and that it is investing some $8 billion.