ADB to lend $1.43 bn for 9 South Asia Sub-regional infra projects

The Asian Development bank (ADB) has approved nine infrastructure projects costing $2.4 billion that are part of the South Asia Sub-regional Economic Cooperation (SASEC) operational plan for 2016-25.

Of these, three projects – two economic corridors and one road bridge – worth an aggregate of $1.2 billion are in India, Raj Kumar, joint secretary in the Department of Economic Affairs, said.

He said India fully supported the SASEC operational plan as it will improve the country's economic linkages with East and Southeast Asia in accordance with India's Act East policy

These projects will receive ADB financing of $1.43 billion. These nine projects represent a significant increase compared to the previous 15 years, when the annual average value of projects approved was only about $500 million, he pointed out.

The nine projects comprise two rail projects in Bangladesh worth $890 million, two economic corridor initiatives (a project and program loan) and a bridge project in India worth an aggregate of $1.2 billion, trade facilitation and airport projects in Bhutan worth $27 million and key SASEC road and energy projects in Nepal worth $302 million. All these projects are aligned with the SASEC OP's thrusts of developing road and rail links aligned closely with trade routes toward the east, streamlining trade procedures, and improving energy infrastructure.

The Indian corridor projects reflect the SASEC OP's recent shift in emphasis on developing economic corridors within and between member countries.

Raj Kumar stressed that the SASEC OP is an important milestone in the SASEC programme, especially as it will pursue the development of infrastructure to improve our economic linkages with East and Southeast Asia, in accordance with India's Act East policy, thereby raising the competitiveness of the sub-region's enterprises.

The SASEC OP has identified over 200 potential transport, trade facilitation and energy projects which will require over $120 billion in investments for the next five years, out of which 74 projects have been identified in India with an estimated project cost of over $60 billion. Majority of these projects are located in the Northeast or Eastern part of the country.

The SASEC OP, endorsed in June 2016 by the SASEC member countries, is SASEC's first comprehensive long-term plan to promote greater economic cooperation among the member countries in the areas of transport, trade facilitation, energy, and economic corridor development. Bringing regional cooperation to a higher level, the SASEC OP plans to extend physical linkages not only within SASEC but also with East and Southeast Asia by the next decade.

Established in 2001, the SASEC programme is a project-based partnership to promote regional prosperity by improving cross-border connectivity, boosting trade among member countries and strengthening regional economic cooperation.

ADB is the secretariat and lead financier of the SASEC programme, which to date has supported a total of 46 projects worth $9.17 billion in transport, trade facilitation, energy and information and communications technology (ICT).