The World Bank has approved a $1.03 billion fund to help Bangladesh and Nepal improve bilateral trade connectivity under a programme titled "The Accelerating Transport and Trade Connectivity in Eastern South Asia Phase 1".
The programme aims to help governments of the two neighbouring countries address the key barriers to regional trade – time-consuming traditional paper-based trade processes, inadequate transport and trade infrastructure, and restrictive trade and transport regulations, a World Bank press release said yesterday.
The fund will be used to establish digitalised automated solutions, improve selected road corridors, upgrade key land ports and custom infrastructure, and ensure green and climate-resilient constructions, it reads.
"Regional trade offers enormous untapped potential for the countries of South Asia. Today, regional trade accounts for only 5% of South Asia's total trade, while in East Asia it accounts for 50%," said Hartwig Schafer, World Bank vice-president for South Asia.
Bangladesh will use the lion's portion of the fund, $753.45 million to be exact, in upgrading the 43-km two-lane Sylhet-Charkai-Sheola Road to a four-lane one, connecting the Sheola Land Port with the Dhaka-Sylhet Highway, supporting digitalising systems at the three land ports – Benapole, Bhomra, and Burimari – and the Chattogram Customs House.
"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% for Bangladesh," said Mercy Tembon, World Bank country director for Bangladesh and Bhutan.
Nepal will use the remaining amount of $275 million to upgrade its 69 km two-lane Butwal-Gorusinghe-Chanauta Road and the East-West Highway, to four-lane ones, among other developments.
The first phase of the programme is expected to help advance Bangladesh and Nepal's preparedness and subsequent implementation of the Motor Vehicle Agreement. In the second phase, the programme will include Bhutan, reads the release.