Mayor hits brakes on Rangoon expansion plan

Mayor hits brakes on Rangoon expansion plan

Rangoon’s divisional government has withdrawn a controversial proposal to extend the city limits, just ahead of a scheduled debate in the regional parliament on Friday.

Rangoon city Mayor Hla Myint announced to parliament that the plan will be “put on hold”, and declined to answer questions from reporters.

On Monday, an emergency meeting of the Rangoon parliament discussed the divisive plan and the mayor agreed to bring the issue up for debate with regional MPs. During Monday’s meeting, many lawmakers expressed concern that the plan, largely kept secret until the choice of a contractor was announced in late August, was being carried out without sufficient transparency.

Given the scale and immediate consequences of the project — an estimated US$8 billion to urbanise 30,000 acres of what is currently used as farmland, speculation leading to gargantuan price hikes on property — many regional MPs thought that the city should seek more input from lawmakers and keep them better informed.

The mayor agreed to put the issue on Friday’s agenda and also vowed to conduct a fair and transparent contract bidding contest, as the appointment of an unknown company with alleged ties to the region’s chief minister had caused a good deal of upset.

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Regional MP Nyo Nyo Thin welcomed postponement of the project.

“It appears that the government read our questions and considered our concern,” she told DVB shortly after Friday’s morning meeting. “It is delightful news.”

Nyo Nyo Thin said that 17 questions were submitted by lawmakers for the parliament’s consideration, and that the speaker was urged to exercise his power to delay the debate.

Some representatives, however, worried that the suspension could have a negative impact on the real estate market. Myi Kyi Mar of Kyimyindaing Township, one of the three that would be directly affected by the expansion, said that halting the project could level out the rapid price hikes and ultimately benefit buyers.

Ultimately though, she said, her constituency badly wants development.

“I don’t care which company wins,” she said. “I’m just happy because soon there will be development in our region.”

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