YANGON, Myanmar, Jan. 26 (UPI) -- The World Bank announced a $2 billion, multiyear development aid program for various projects in Myanmar including reforms, energy and healthcare.
The announcement was made over the weekend during the first visit of President Jim Yong Kim to the country, the Bank said on its web site.
"We are increasing our support for the huge reform effort underway in Myanmar because we want to help the government bring benefits to poor people even more quickly," Kim said. "Our $2 billion dollar multi-year program will support the government's plans to deliver universal health care to citizens and to help everyone in the country gain access to electricity by 2030."
The poor Southeast Asian nation of 40 million, formerly called Burma, is now led by the civilian government of President Thein Sein following decades of brutal military rule. Thein Sein's government has introduced a number of democratic and economic reforms, but still faces numerous challenges.
The United States and other Western nations have eased their sanctions against Myanmar and encouraged foreign investments.
The World Bank program will support the Myanmar government's multi-year investment program, such as expanding electricity generation, transmission and distribution. Over 70 percent of Myanmar's people do not have access to reliable electricity.
"Expanding access to electricity in a country like Myanmar can help transform a society -- children will be able to study at night, shops will stay open, and health clinics will have lights and energy to power life-saving technology. Electricity helps brings an end to poverty," Kim said.
The Bank will also provide $200 million to help Myanmar achieve universal health coverage by 2030. An estimated 75 percent of Myanmar's mostly rural population lacks access to quality health care, and high costs place most essential services out of reach for many Myanmar families who live below the poverty line, the Bank said.