Friday, October 28, 2016
The Myanmar Times
The Myanmar Times

How will the Dawei project benefit Myanmar?

Keven Costner is a polarising actor – in between some sterling performances in Dances With Wolves and A Perfect World, he found time to act in some of the worst movies of the recent past, bottoming out with widely derided Waterworld, a film so dreadful that even Dennis Hopper as a mad pirate could not save it.

And at this point in time you might legitimately be wondering if The Myanmar Times has been taken over by crackheads: An opinion article in the business section about that dashing rogue Kevin Costner – what’s that possibly got to do with Myanmar?

The point lies in another Costner effort that deals with his apparent desire to portray himself as a serious but down-on-his-luck sportsman – and no, I’m not talking about the preposterously awful Tin Cup, but the moderately watchable Field of Dreams, released in 1989.

Now, I’m not going to lie and say I remember the movie well but I do recall the line delivered by Costner’s ghostly co-star: “If you build it, he will come.”

At this point Costner’s character digs up part of his cornfield in a bid to encourage the ghost of Shoeless Joe Jackson, a long-dead player idolised by Costner’s father, to play baseball at the field.

And here’s where I belatedly – and very crudely – arrive at my point: I think the mooted US$50-billion Dawei Special Economic Zone and deepsea port in Tanintharyi Region is Myanmar’s field of dreams, with Thailand and possibly Japan acting as the ghostly voice.

Frankly, I don’t see the benefit that Myanmar gets from Dawei but it seems clear from former Thai prime minister Mr Abhisit Vejjajiva’s comments during a weekly television address in late 2010 that Thailand knows what it wants from the project.

“Some industries are not suitable to be located in Thailand. This is why they decided to set up there,” he said, referring to Dawei.

Tycoon U Zaw Zaw told Reuters news agency in early July that his company, Max Myanmar Group of Companies, planned to reduce its share in the 250-square-kilometre project from 25 percent.

“We are pulling out from the project gradually,” he confirmed to Reuters in a phone interview on July 4.

The ambitious Dawei project was announced to the public in late 2010 but has hit a number of roadblocks since then, including U Zaw Zaw’s planned pullout, the axing of a planned 4000-megawatt coal-fired power plant on environmental grounds and perhaps the greatest threat of all – the failure of developer Italian-Thai to secure funding.

Somjet Thinaphong, the managing director of the Dawei Development Co. Ltd, said a gradual withdrawal by the Myanmar strategic partner is unlikely to affect the project’s long-term viability, according to an article in the Bangkok Post in early July.

“The viability of such a capital-intensive development project is largely dependent on fund sourcing,” he said. “The local company, or even Ital-Thai, does not have the financial capacity to fund such a massive development project. We have to bank on others to provide us with financial support.”