KOICA to establish development think tank in Myanmar

    A glimpse of the Uppatasanti Pagoda in Nay Pyi Taw, Myanmar. The Korea International Cooperation Agency will establish a new think tank in the country. Photo by: Axel Drainville / CC BY-NC

    Emerging donor South Korea has high hopes for Myanmar, and the latest step is to establish a new think tank to assist in policy, capacity building and research efforts in the country, as well as boost Seoul’s own development footprint in Southeast Asia.

    The Myanmar Development Institute will be based in the capital Naypyitaw and operate with a $20 million budget provided by the Korea International Cooperation Agency over the next five years. The center is expected to be the top national institute for economic and social development in Myanmar, which is still grappling with the challenges of democracy and opening up to business after decades of military rule and international isolation.

    “[MDI] will focus on providing technical assistance in institutional capacity building as well as the construction of the physical building of the institute in Naypyitaw,” Hyun Jee, aid effectiveness expert at KOICA’s Myanmar office, told Devex. “But the idea is that MDI is a national think tank. It belongs to Myanmar. The operations will depend on what [they] want and what their needs are, and we will provide the proper support.”

    A statement from the aid agency noted the think tank — patterned after the prestigious Korea Development Institute — “will facilitate the strengthening of evidence-based policymaking process by providing comprehensive policy research and advisory, and by organizing capacity development training programs for effective policy implementation.”

    Jee added that the idea is for the MDI to form part of an international network with other similar institutions in the future, “but who and how [the partnership will look] will be the decision of Myanmar.”

    “It will not be up to us,” the KOICA official concluded.

    Since it finally decided to embrace democracy four years ago, Myanmar has become a “donor darling” of aid agencies and development organizations, which are pouring funds and technical assistance into the country.

    Earlier this year, World Bank President Jim Yong Kim pledged more than $2 billion in development assistance in his first official visit in the country, while Japan and the United Kingdom have also expressed their interest to prioritize Myanmar as one of their biggest recipients with almost $400 million in total aid.

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    About the author

    • Lean Alfred Santos

      Lean Alfred Santos is a former Devex development reporter focusing on the development community in Asia-Pacific, including major players such as the Asian Development Bank and the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank. He previously covered Philippine and international business and economic news, sports and politics.