Hundreds of millions in COVID aid vanished down the junta hole: IMF

File photo of Min Aung Hlaing from April 2019. Photo: Vadim Savitsky / Russian Ministry of Defense
File photo of Min Aung Hlaing from April 2019. Photo: Vadim Savitsky / Russian Ministry of Defense

The IMF said Wednesday that US$372 million given to Myanmar for assistance with the COVID-19 crisis has gone missing in the hands of its military regime.

Spokesman Gerry Rice said the IMF, which has been closely monitoring the situation, transferred the money to the former civilian government two days before the military staged its February coup. However, eight months later, he said there is no evidence the junta has used it for its intended purpose of addressing COVID-19 and assisting individuals in need.

“It’s not possible for the IMF to ascertain whether the regime is using the funds as they were intended, namely, to tackle COVID and support the most vulnerable people,” Rice said, adding that the military has not been as transparent as the former civilian government.

The government of Aung San Suu Kyi had vowed to disclose any contracts valued over MMK100 million (US$55,000), and its Auditor General committed to releasing quarterly reports on the spending, the only one of which came Jan. 29 concerning the mass purchase of face masks and pharmaceuticals. 

In the meantime, the IMF has ended direct aid to the junta.

On Wednesday, Myanmar had recorded roughly 1,000 new cases of COVID-19, and 16 more deaths.  The actual extent of the virus’s impact has yet to be determined, as most tests have been conducted at military hospitals managed by the junta without civilian laboratories and clinics, where dissident civilian personnel have been on strike.

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