The Asian Development Bank aims to finance infrastructure projects in Bangladesh that help boost regional cooperation, Kazuhiko Higuchi, the ADB's newly appointed country director, said yesterday.
Regional cooperation can bring annual benefits of $12-$15 billion among the member countries, he said at the monthly luncheon meeting of American Chamber of Commerce in Bangladesh (AmCham) at Ruposhi Bangla Hotel in Dhaka yesterday.
The Manila-based lender focuses on the South Asia Sub-regional Economic Cooperation (SASEC) Programme to finance key infrastructure projects in Bangladesh, such as roads, railways, information communication technology, tourism and energy.
ADB has so far financed nine projects worth $816.77 million in Bangladesh under the SASEC programme since 2001, Higuchi added.
The SASEC programme, set up in 2001, brings together Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, the Maldives, Nepal, and Sri Lanka in a project-based partnership to promote regional prosperity.
The programme seeks to strengthen cross-border connectivity by creating multi-modal transport networks to boost intraregional trade, and open up trade opportunities in Asia.
Higuchi stressed dialogue among the member countries to foster regional cooperation. “Continuing dialogue is a must to promote regional integration.”
Aftab ul Islam, president of AmCham, said regional cooperation does not get a momentum in South Asia mainly due to mistrust among neighbouring countries.
He stressed the need for enhancing people-to-people contact in the region with more exchanges between businesspersons and civil society members.
Islam urged ADB to finance mega-hydro power projects in Nepal to address electricity shortage in the region, as the country's potential stands at more than 83,000 megawatts.
Mohammad Zahid Hossain, principal economist of ADB's Dhaka office, also spoke.