Radio Australia: Australia and Burma sign development agreement

Australia and Burma sign development agreement (click to view article)

Australia and Burma's governments have signed an agreement that will allow aid to be delivered through a direct relationship, as the country pushes forward with political, economic and social reforms.

The Memorandum of Understanding on development cooperation is the first to be signed between Burma and a western nation.

The agreement comes as Australia announced this week it will inject $15 million into education programs that it hopes will reach 160,000 children.

Director General of Australia's official aid agency AusAID, Peter Baxter, told Radio Australia's Connect Asia there is "an enormous window of opportunity" to get behind Burma's reforms.

"What this MoU does is set the platform for an ongoing dialogue with the government about its reform priorities," Mr Baxter said.

"Sixty years of isolation and military rule has meant the systems of government in Myanmar are very undeveloped and so...we will be very cautious about how we put money through government systems."

Mr Baxter says the Australian government has committed to increasing its program in Burma to $100 million by 2015.

Australia and the United Kingdom this week opened a joint office in Naypyidaw, which they say will allow them to work more closely with Burma's government.

Mr Baxter says Australian authorities are pressing Burma's government to resolve the ongoing conflict between government troops and Kachin Independence Army (KIA) rebels.