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Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida pledged 10.5 billion yen (US$102 million) in loans to his Burmese counterpart, Wunna Maung Lwin, on Saturday to improve the country’s communications infrastructure.
According to Japanese news agency Kyodo, the low-interest loan will be aimed at developing a communications network linking three major cities – Rangoon, Mandalay and Naypyidaw – which will meet the country’s growing demand for mobile phones and Internet connectivity.
Japanese media reports also said that the two officials discussed improving bilateral cooperation between the two countries, strengthening economic ties, and making visa applications more convenient for Japanese businessmen.
Japan has a long history of providing aid and investment to Burma. According to Chinese state-run news agency Xinhua, Burma received the largest amount of aid from Japan during the second half of the fiscal year 2013 to 2014.
In recent years, the number of Internet users in Burma has grown exponentially, jumping from 66,000 users in fiscal year 2011 to 2012 to 2.5 million users in 2013-2014 fiscal year. With the entrance of Norwegian communications firm Telenor and Qatar-based Ooredoo into Burma’s mobile communications sector, the number of mobile users is expected to jump significantly. Ooredoo expects to cover 25 million people by the end of this year, and to reach 97 percent of Burma’s population within five years.