IMF chief to pay first visit to Myanmar

WASHINGTON - IMF chief Christine Lagarde will next month pay her first visit to Myanmar as the once authoritarian government pursues reforms that have fueled growth, the global lender said Tuesday.

Lagarde will visit Myanmar's showcase capital Naypyidaw and its largest city Yangon during the December 6-7 visit, which will come after stops in South Korea and Cambodia.

"I will visit three countries in different stages of transition - Korea, the world's 13th largest economy; Cambodia, a frontier economy on the rise; and Myanmar, undergoing a great awakening to countless possibilities," Lagarde said in a statement.

In Myanmar, Suu Kyi will meet with government and economic leaders as well as opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, the Nobel laureate who spent most of the past two decades under house arrest and has now entered democratic politics, IMF spokesman Gerry Rice said.

The International Monetary Fund and World Bank have been expanding their relationship with the country formerly known as Burma since 2011, when the military government officially dissolved and launched reforms that have included easing censorship and freeing political prisoners.

Myanmar has also taken economic reforms including allowing its currency to float. In January, international lenders agreed to cancel nearly US$6 billion (S$7.5 billion) of Myanmar's debt.

In May, the IMF estimated that Myanmar's economy would expand 6.75 per cent in 2013-14, a notch up from the previous year, driven by gas production and investment in the resource-rich Southeast Asian nation.

Since its transition to democracy, Myanmar's relations have warmed markedly with the United States which has ended most sanctions imposed during military rule. Human rights activists, however, point to continued abuses against minorities including the mostly Muslim Rohingya people.