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Give extended support to upgrade cross-border link, Bangladesh tells SASEC conference

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The government has sought extended support from the South Asia Sub-Regional Cooperation (SASEC), a regional funding window of the Asian Development Bank (ADB), for improving cross-border communications, officials said on Saturday.

At a recent conference of the SASEC countries, Bangladesh has sought the extended support and requested the ADB to set up a regional office in Dhaka.

Headed by Economic Relations Division (ERD) Additional Secretary Dr Pear Mohammad, a Bangladesh delegation took part at the SASEC conference.

"The ADB is helping Bangladesh with a better support from the SASEC fund in a bid to improve the regional road, rail, airport and seaport connectivity. We need higher support than the present one for upgrading the cross-border connectivity," said a senior ERD official.

The Manila-based lender has so far confirmed US$21.76 billion loans for road, rail, and port development in Bangladesh from its SASEC funding window, ERD data shows.

Out of the funds, the ADB has provided $14.34 billion for road development, $3.205 billion for railway, $2.37 billion for port development, and $1.85 billion for airport development.

"Bangladesh has already started widening of its all the national highways and cross-border economic road corridor. A huge amount of financial support is required in the coming years. So, we have requested the ADB for extending its support from the SASEC fund," the ERD official said.

In addition to the ADB's lending programme for Bangladesh, the SASEC funds will be invested for connecting the national and regional highways with the neighbouring countries, he added.

The ADB is now financing the Joydevpur-Elenga-Rangpur road corridor from its SASEC fund in a bid to widen the two-lane national highways to a four-lane one.

Besides, the ADB is also financing some other ongoing projects including South Asia Sub-regional Economic Cooperation Integrated Trade Facilitation Sector Development Program, South Asia Sub-regional Economic Cooperation Dhaka-Sylhet Corridor Road Investment Project, and Strengthening the Institutional Mechanism of the South Asia Sub-regional Economic Cooperation Program.

The ERD official said Bangladesh now needs to set up regional power transmission line for electricity trading with Nepal, Bhutan and India.

"Besides, road corridor across India is a crying need for Bangladesh to establish the connectivity with other land-locked countries like Nepal and Bhutan. So, we have requested the ADB to take initiative to open up those energy and road corridors for enhancing the regional economic activities," the ERD official added.

"Since 2001, the ADB is operating its SACEC funding from its headquarters. Since the portfolio in recent years has risen to a record number of amounts, we have requested the ADB to set up a SACEC regional office in Dhaka," he added.

The Manila-based lender formed the SASEC in 2001 comprising South Asian countries Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Bhutan, Sri Lanka, Maldives, and Myanmar aimed at facilitating the regional integration.

The SASEC has prioritised six sectors including energy and power; transportation; tourism; environment; trade, investment and private sector cooperation; and ICT.

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