WB approves $500m in loan for Bangladesh road connectivity improvement

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The World Bank on Tuesday approved $500 million in loans to Bangladesh for improving road and digital connectivity along the Jashore-Jhenaidah corridor covering four western districts.

The Western Economic Corridor and Regional Enhancement (WeCARE) Phase I project is the first of a multi-phased $1.4 billion World Bank programme to upgrade the existing 110 KM two-lane highway —Bhomra-Satkhira-Navaron and Jahore-Jhenaidah — to a safer and climate-resilient four-lane highway in the region, said WB in a statement.

The project will support the government’s plan of developing a 260 km economic corridor in the western part and benefit over 20 million people, it said.

The first phase of the programme will upgrade 48 kilometer of the N7 highway between Jashore and Jhenaidah and improve about 600km connecting rural roads and 32 rural markets/growth centers to stimulate the local economy, it said.

The highway will have additional lanes for slow-moving vehicles and a median safety barrier to separate oncoming traffic to improve road safety.

Under the project, fiber optic cables will also be installed along the highway to provide reliable and affordable internet access.

The credit from the WB’s International Development Association (IDA), which provides concessional financing, has a 34-year term, including a four-year grace period.

With this financing, the World Bank’s total commitment in the current financial year 2019-2020 stands at $2.27 billion.

Bangladesh currently has the largest IDA ongoing programme totaling over $13.5 billion.

‘The western region of Bangladesh is endowed with many agricultural and natural produce and holds great potential of becoming a gateway for regional and international trade,’ World Bank country director for Bangladesh and Bhutan Mercy Tembon said.

She said that the project would unlock the region’s potential by stimulating the economy of districts, linking farms to markets, connecting Dhaka with the western region as well as with neighbouring countries, thus enhancing trade, transit and logistics along the corridor.

Washington-based international lender also said that the COVID-19 pandemic had hit the poorest hard with the loss of jobs and income

The project will support immediate social protection and livelihoods to the vulnerable rural people by engaging them in labor-intensive civil works to help them recover from the shock, it said.

Even in the post COVID period, the project will create jobs for the local communities through civil works for the national highway and connecting rural roads and markets, it added.

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