YANGON—Foreign developer Gold Coast KTMG Myanmar has proposed a US$38 billion “new city” project in the suburbs of Sittwe, Rakhine State’s capital.
Sittwe is near eight townships in northern Rakhine currently affected by armed clashes.
A KTMG delegation met with U San Kyaw Hla, the speaker of the Rakhine State parliament, and a group of Arakanese lawmakers and military representatives on Tuesday.
According to the speaker, the KTMG representatives laid out their proposal for a development project on 7,000 acres of land.
He said KTMG initially selected a project location near Kyae Taw and Shwe Min Gan villages across the Sakro Keya creek from Sittwe. U San Kyaw Hla said the officials they were told the company expects the project to cost about $38 billion. He said the project still needed to be cleared by the Union government, in line with foreign investment procedures.
U Htoo Min Thein, director of Rakhine State’s Directorate of Investment and Company Administration (DICA) told The Irrawaddy on Thursday that a delegation led by KTMG official Yeap Poh Hooi mentioned the estimated budget size at $38 billion. The company is officially registered with DICA as a Malaysia-based foreign firm, but it remains unclear which foreign conglomerate is behind them, he said.
U San Kyaw Hla said the biggest obstacle facing the company could be obtaining the right to use the land, as thousands of land plots and farms in the area belong to villagers. He explained that the price of real estate including farmland in the area is skyrocketing, both for prime locations in the city and on the outskirts of Sittwe. Company officials told lawmakers they planned to purchase the land from local residents at current market prices.
U San Kyaw Hla said, “To find 7,000 acres of land for the project seems impossible, especially in Sittwe.”
According to a Rakhine parliament online news page, the project is to be called Sittwe Myanmar City 2030. According to KTMG, U San Kyaw Hla said the company will act as a real estate agent to facilitate the land utilization process and invite interested developers from all over the world to participate.
U Kyaw Aye Thein, Rakhine State’s minister for revenue, planning and economy, confirmed that KTMG representatives traveled to Rakhine to meet with state cabinet members. He described the project as “very big”, comprising light and heavy industries, housing, factories, a hotel zone, theme park and an oil and gas jetty.
Some observers pointed to the risk of doing business in the conflict-affected town and in northern Rakhine. Last week, two soldiers were killed when Arakan Army (AA) rebels attacked a Myanmar Navy tugboat docked in Sittwe’s Sakro Keya creek with rockets.
Since December 2018, the military and AA rebels have been fighting in eight townships in Rakhine. The clashes have so far displaced 40,000 locals, and rights groups accuse the military of committing abuses against civilians.
This foreign infrastructure investment project is the second proposed for Sittwe in recent years. In 2017, South Korean firm BXT Internal and the Rakhine State government jointly implemented a $10 million land reclamation project, adding 90 acres of seaside land next to the Sittwe jetty.
Correction: A previous version of this article incorrectly spelled the company’s name as Gold Coast KPMG when, in fact, the correct name is Gold Coast KTMG.
This story updates one published on Wednesday with a quote and information from the director of the Rakhine State DICA office.