World Bank Approves $1.03 Billion to Improve Regional Trade, Connectivity in South Asia
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.
The Phase 1 program will help replace lengthy manual and paper-based trade processes with digitized automated solutions in Bangladesh and Nepal. The automation will enable faster border crossing times and install electronic tracking of truck entry and exit, electronic queuing, smart parking, and CCTV cameras. The program will also help improve selected road corridors and upgrade key land ports and custom infrastructure, while ensuring green and climate-resilient construction. This will help the integration of landlocked Bhutan and Nepal with the gateway countries of Bangladesh and India.
"Regional trade offers enormous untapped potential for the countries of South Asia. Today, regional trade accounts for only 5 percent of South Asia’s total trade, while in East Asia it accounts for 50 percent," said Hartwig Schafer, World Bank Vice President for South Asia in a press release on Tuesday.
"South Asia can boost economic growth significantly and create opportunities for millions of people by increasing regional trade and connectivity," Scharfer added.
The $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 percent. The project will support digital systems, infrastructure, and more streamlined processes at Benapole, Bhomra, and Burimari land ports, the three largest land ports in Bangladesh handling approximately 80 percent of land-based trade. It will also support the modernization of the Chattogram customs house which handles 90 percent of all import/export declarations in Bangladesh.
The $275 million ACCESS Project in Nepal will upgrade 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. This is expected to reduce travel time by 30 percent, thus providing better access to India’s western seaports. The project will construct at least three market areas along the highway with dedicated areas for women entrepreneurs and traders to ensure that women can benefit from the enhanced economic opportunities. The market areas will be equipped with separate toilets for women, free Wi-Fi, and digital bulletin boards with timely trade and market information. It will also support capacity building to enhance trade and customs processes at Birgunj and Bhairahawa border points. The project will also help advance Nepal’s preparedness and subsequent implementation of the Motor Vehicle Agreement (MVA).
In the second phase, the program will include Bhutan.
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