ISLAMABAD, Oct 30: The Central Asia Regional Economic Cooperation (CAREC) Programme nations have agreed on a plan to implement more than $23 billion in new regional transport infrastructure projects, together with energy and trade initiatives, aimed at creating seamless connectivity and greater prosperity in the region.

The ‘Wuhan Action Plan’, unveiled at the CAREC ministerial meeting in Wuhan in China on Tuesday prioritised 68 transport projects which will contribute to six major corridors linking the ports in eastern China with the Caucasus and beyond, and connecting northern Kazakhstan to the trading hubs in Karachi and Gwadar in Pakistan.

This will be complemented by efforts to improve border and customs services to allow people and goods to move easily between nations.

In addition, CAREC nations aim to raise funds to build and improve energy assets.

The ministers, representing Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, China, Kazakhstan, the Kyrgyz Republic, Mongolia, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan, also agreed to establish a base for the CAREC Institute in the region by 2014 to support strategic projects through analytical work, training, and knowledge management.

Finance Minister Abdul Hafeez Shaikh is leading Pakistan at the ministerial meeting.

Representatives from CAREC multilateral institution partners — ADB, European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, the International Monetary Fund, the Islamic Development Bank, the United Nations Development Programme, and the World Bank — and bilateral donor agencies from France, Japan, United Kingdom, and the United States – pledged support for the ‘Wuhan Action Plan’.

“Regional cooperation is essential to promote inclusive and environmentally sustainable growth,” Asian Development Bank (ADB) President Haruhiko Kuroda said in a keynote address to the 11th CAREC Ministerial Conference.

“Poor connectivity arising from inadequate transport and communications infrastructure can impede trade expansion and investment attraction.”

Since 2001, the CAREC region has seen over $19 billion in investments in just over 120 projects, including almost 4,000 kilometres of roads, 3,200 kilometres of railways, and more than 2,300 kilometres of power transmission lines.

CAREC ministers met in Baku, Azerbaijan in November 2011 where they endorsed the CAREC 2020 framework for the region for the subsequent decade. They will next meet in late 2013 in Kazakhstan.


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