Washington [US], June 29 (ANI): The World Bank on Tuesday approved USD 1.03 billion of financing to improve regional trade in Bangladesh and Nepal by reducing trade and transport costs and transit time along the regional corridors.
According to a World Bank statement, the Accelerating Transport and Trade Connectivity in Eastern South Asia (ACCESS) Program Phase 1 will help the respective governments address the key barriers to regional trade - manual and paper-based trade processes, inadequate transport and trade infrastructure, and restrictive trade and transport regulations and processes.
World Bank Vice President for South Asia, Hartwig Schafer said, "Regional trade offers enormous untapped potential for the countries of South Asia. Today, regional trade accounts for only 5 per cent of South Asia's total trade, while in East Asia it accounts for 50 per cent."
"South Asia can boost economic growth significantly and create opportunities for millions of people by increasing regional trade and connectivity," he added.
The program Phase 1 will help improve selected road corridors and upgrade key land ports and custom infrastructure while ensuring green and climate-resilient construction.
This will also help the integration of landlocked Bhutan and Nepal with the gateway countries of Bangladesh and India, the official statement said.
"A key focus of the ACCESS program is to support solutions that can most effectively reduce dwell times at trade gateways, which is vital to lowering trade costs. This entails greater border cooperation and coordination within and between countries, cutting down the physical inspection of goods, and simplifying regulations and processes," World Bank Task Team Leader of the program, Erik Nora said.
The USD 753.45 million financing for the ACCESS Project in Bangladesh will upgrade the 43 Km section of the two-lane Sylhet-Charkai-Sheola to a climate-resilient four-lane road, connecting the Sheola Land Port with the Dhaka-Sylhet Highway. This will cut down travel time by 30 per cent.
It will also support the modernization of the Chattogram customs house which handles 90 per cent of all import, and export declarations in Bangladesh.
The USD 275 million ACCESS Project in Nepal will upgrade the 69 km two-lane section of Butwal--Gorusinghe--Chanauta road along the East-West Highway to a climate-resilient four-lane highway, with a focus on ensuring better road safety.
The project will also help advance Nepal's preparedness and subsequent implementation of the Motor Vehicle Agreement (MVA).
World Bank Task Team Leader of the Nepal Project and co-Task Team Leader of the Program, Oceane Keou said, "It is highly critical to ensure trade growth, long-term sustainability and resilience of investments, while minimizing actual degradations on the environment, wildlife and ecosystems along with Nepal's road network, which carries 90 per cent of passengers and goods movement."
"The project will adopt and implement an innovative green and resilient highway corridor concept in Nepal, based on a landscape-level development approach," Keou said.
In the second phase, the program will include Bhutan, the World Bank statement said. (ANI)