World Bank gives $1 billion to boost trade in Bangladesh, Nepal
The World Bank today approved $1.03 billion of financing to help improve regional trade in Bangladesh and Nepal by reducing trade and transport costs and transit time along the regional corridors.
The global lender is providing the fund under the Accelerating Transport and Trade Connectivity in Eastern South Asia (ACCESS) Programme Phase 1, according to a press release of the World Bank.
This programme 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.
It will also help improve selected road corridors and upgrade key land ports and custom infrastructure while ensuring green and climate-resilient construction.
Besides, this will help the integration of landlocked Nepal and Bhutan 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 per cent of South Asia's total trade, while in East Asia it accounts for 50 per cent," said Hartwig Schafer, World Bank's vice president for South Asia.
South Asia can boost economic growth significantly and create opportunities for millions of people by increasing regional trade and connectivity, Schafer said.
In Bangladesh, the $753.45 million ACCESS Project will upgrade the 43-km two-lane Sylhet-Charkai-Sheola road to a climate-resilient four-lane one, connecting the Sheola Land Port with the Dhaka-Sylhet Highway, according to the press release.
This will cut down travel time by 30 per cent.
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 per cent of land-based trade.
It will also support the modernisation of the Chattogram customs house which handles 90 per cent of all import-export declarations in Bangladesh.
"While the trade between Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, and Nepal grew six times from 2015 to 2019, the unexploited potential for regional trade is estimated at 93 per cent for Bangladesh," said Mercy Tembon, World Bank country director for Bangladesh and Bhutan.
Meanwhile, the $275 million ACCESS Project in Nepal will upgrade the 69 km two-lane Butwal-Gorusinghe-Chanauta road, along the East-West Highway, to a climate-resilient four-lane highway.
This is expected to reduce travel time by 30 per cent, thus providing better access to India's western seaports, according to the WB.