The Asian Development Bank has approved a technical assistance grant to help Burma plan and coordinate its energy sector policies.

The grant is designed to strengthen Burma's Ministry of Energy, particularly the new Energy Planning Department, which oversees electricity supply, oil and gas production, oil refining and distribution of petroleum products.

If Burma taps its abundance of energy sources -- hydropower, natural gas, forest resources, crude oil and coal -- the country could meet its rising energy demand and earn foreign exchange from the sale of surplus energy, an ADB-World Bank study says.

ADB's technical assistance will introduce improved methods for preparing low-cost investment programs, performing economic analyses of projects, evaluating energy enterprises, devising a management information system, initiating a program for energy conservation and preparing a safety code of practice for fuel.

Five or six specialists with expertise in these areas will provide training, including overseas training, for key officials of the Energy Planning Development.

The total cost of the technical assistance will be shared equally by ADB and the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), with the bank acting as executing agency for UNDP.

ADB's New Disaster Plan

The Asian Development Bank in Manila has approved a new, streamlined procedure to quickly help small island member countries affected by natural disasters.

In the past, ADB reconstruction assistance has been channeled through multiproject lending and took a long time to process.

Under the simplified procedures, approval time for rehabilitation projects will take six weeks instead of 10 months. Assistance will be limited to $500,000 in each case, to cover repairs to damaged facilities.