Naypyidaw: What went wrong with Myanmar's expensive new capital?
In 2005, the Burmese government announced that it would be moving the country's capital from Yangon to a new city in the centre of the country. The new city, Naypyidaw, was built from scratch at a cost of billions of dollars.
It was designed to be a modern, planned city with all the latest amenities. However, 18 years later, Naypyidaw remains largely empty and uninhabited.
In an ambitious endeavour, Myanmar constructed Naypyidaw, a grandiose capital city, hoping to showcase its progress and modernity to the world. Despite the substantial financial investment and elaborate facilities, Naypyidaw stands as a stark symbol of failure.
This failed project has remained a case study for building mega projects around the world. The city's enormously wide roads and massive structures shout where unplanned investment can lead to.
The construction of Naypyidaw came with an astronomical price tag. Although precise figures are hard to ascertain, estimates suggest that the project cost billions of dollars, a massive drain on the country's limited resources.
Vast sums were allocated for infrastructure development, including expansive roads, government buildings, hotels, and recreational facilities. The financial burden placed on Myanmar was exacerbated by the fact that the project was undertaken secretly, keeping the public largely unaware of the excessive costs involved.
Motivations behind Naypyidaw
Several factors drove the decision to build Naypyidaw. Firstly, the military junta ruling Myanmar at the time sought to establish a new, centrally located capital that would symbolise its authority and power.
There were concerns about the vulnerability of Yangon, the former capital, to natural disasters and potential foreign invasions. Building a new city from scratch was seen as an opportunity to create a strategic stronghold and showcase Myanmar's modernisation efforts.
Size and facilities
Naypyidaw was designed on a massive scale, covering an area of approximately 7,000 square kilometres, making it significantly larger than most major cities in the world.
The city boasts vast boulevards, luxurious hotels, sprawling government complexes, lavish golf courses, and stadiums capable of hosting large events. The sheer magnitude of the infrastructure investments aimed to project an image of progress and prosperity.
Deserted and unpopulated: A ghost city?
Despite its grandeur, Naypyidaw remains eerily deserted. The reasons for its lack of population are multifaceted:
- The city's construction was largely carried out by the military, with little involvement or consultation with the general population. As a result, there was minimal organic demand for housing or infrastructure.
- The astronomical living costs in Naypyidaw have deterred individuals and businesses from relocating, with most preferring the economic opportunities available in larger cities like Yangon.
- The isolated location, lack of adequate public transportation, and limited job prospects further discourage people from settling in Naypyidaw.
The Naypyidaw project is a testament to the failure of an extravagant vision prioritising grandiosity over practicality. The exorbitant expenses incurred during its construction, coupled with the lack of public consultation and economic viability, have resulted in a deserted capital city.