ISLAMABAD: The Asian Development Bank (ADB) and the Department for International Development (DFID) of the United Kingdom will co-finance the $327 million cost of the Hassanabdal-Havelian Expressway (E-35) project.

Witnessing the signing of the agreement on Tuesday, ADB’s Director General for Central and West Asia Department Sean O’Sullivan said the two organisations are “joining hands to promote regional connectivity, economic growth, and stability in Pakistan”.

After the opening of Gwadar port, the government envisions significant increase in trade and transit traffic from China, both through sea and land, with the Middle East, Africa and Central Asian republics.

It has, therefore, decided to upgrade Karakoram Highway — officially known an N-35 — to expressway standards and link it to the national trade corridor, to improve connectivity with China.

N-35 links Hazara, Kohistan and Gilgit-Baltistan with the rest of the country and is the only overland trade route to China.

The upgrade to the E-35 expressway will allow Pakistan to act as a transit artery for goods moving between Arabian seaports in the south and China in the north. The expressway will enable safer, faster and more cost-effective interregional transportation of goods and services.

Finance Minister Ishaq Dar and Head of DFID Pakistan Richard Montgomery were also present at the signing ceremony. The loan agreement was signed by ADB Country Director Werner E. Liepach and Secretary Economic Affairs Division Muhammad Saleem Sethi, while the project agreement was signed by National Highway Authority’s Chairman Shahid Ashraf Tarar.

The ADB earlier approved $327m for the project in two tranches of $200m and $127m under the multi-tranche facility (MFF) for the National Trade Corridor Highway Investment Programme.

This original investment was for the E-35 expressway connecting the existing M1 at Hassanabdal (Burhan) to Havelian. DFID’s grant contribution of $121.6m will allow the Asian Bank to fund the extension of the expressway to Abbottabad and Mansehra to the north.

Montgomery said, “The UK’s collaboration will support Pakistan to improve road safety and to create an environment that will transform roads into economic corridors. This partnership will not only help Pakistan promote and expand trade with regional partners, but also to create more jobs and sustainable livelihoods.”

The national trade corridor highway investment programme is funded by the ADB through an MFF which consists of several tranches, each covering several subprojects. The ongoing tranche-1 comprises section 11 of Faisalabad to Khanewal motorway project (M4). The Hassanabdal-Havelian Expressway is a new project proposed by the National Highway Authority.

The government has launched the national trade corridor improvement programme for reducing the cost of transport and trade logistics, bringing services’ quality to international standards, enhance the country’s exports competitiveness, and accelerate its industrialisation.

Published in Dawn, September 2nd, 2015

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