PESHAWAR, 27 September: The Asian Development Bank (ADB) has approved a five-year Rs80 billion investment plan to link Pakistan with trade of Central Asian countries through road network.

According to a statement of the ADB, this plan will help link Pakistan with other countries of the region for economic cooperation. The ADB’s board of directors approved the multi tranche financing facility (MFF) to enhance regional connectivity and trade in the Central Asia Regional Economic Cooperation (CAREC) corridors in Pakistan, according to an official hand-out.

The first tranche valuing $180 million will be received by the end of this year and will be spent in Sindh, Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa on road and other projects. The second tranche of $260 million will be paid by 2019, while the third tranche of $36 million will be paid by 2021.

“Pakistan’s unique geographic location – at the crossroads of Central Asia, the People’s Republic of China, and South Asia – provides a unique potential and opportunity for the country to become a regional transport and trade hub,” said Dong-Soo Pyo, ADB’s Director, Transport and Communications Division, Central and West Asia Department.

“The investment programme will help the government of Pakistan realise this potential, improve trade and connectivity in the CAREC corridors with the long-term goal of achieving inclusive growth and sustainable development in mind,” he added.

Pakistan’s trade has been centred on sea traffic while transit trade through the country remains limited as poor and costly transport, and cross-border infrastructure and services hinder the realisation of this untapped potential.

“Upgrading the country’s current 263,000 kilometres of road while ensuring transport safety will be critical to the country’s export competitiveness as well as overall economic growth,” according to the ADB. The $800 million multi-tranche facility will upgrade and rehabilitate a total of 747km of road along the CAREC corridors.

The investment programme will also focus on strengthening the capacity of the National Highway Authority to carry out due diligence work for subsequent tranches as well as to implement each tranche project under the MFF as designed. “The investment programme will expand Pakistan’s regional connectivity links through road traffic efficiency,” said the local office of the Manila-based lending agency.