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France links aid to free and fair elections

French President Francois Hollande (L) shakes hand with President Thein Sein as he arrives at the Elysee Palace in Paris on 17 July 2013. (PHOTO: Reuters)

France’s Minister for Development and Francophony Annick Giradin, who is currently visiting Burma, said the French government plans to increase aid to the country but only after it has confirmed next year’s general election as free and fair.

She said the French government aid will include low-interest loans via the French Development Centre, as well as health programmes.

To date, France has invested seven million euro (US$8.66m) in Burma’s health sector but says it is looking to increase aid tenfold. French investment in development as of 2013-14 amounted to 293 million euro.

France is Burma’s second largest aid donor among European Union member states, with an allocation of 700 million euro set aside for the period 2014-20.

In July 2013, French Trade Minister Nicole Bricq led a delegation of small- and medium-sized businesses to Burma as France looked to boost trade ties with the once-isolated nation.

The delegation came just two weeks after Burma’s President Thein Sein visited France, where he met with President Francois Hollande and was praised for implementing economic and democratic reforms.

By far the largest French investor in Burma is oil company TOTAL, which has been in the country since 1992 and operates the offshore Yadana gas field that fuels power plants in Thailand.

In a bidding war for offshore oil concessions in March this year, TOTAL won rights to the deep-water YWB block in the Gulf of Martaban.