Multisector Development in the Greater Mekong Subregion

Development of Economic Corridors

Establishing an economic corridor is a holistic strategy that improves and enhances investments in transport, energy, and telecommunications in the Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS). A highly efficient transport system means goods and people move around the subregion without excessive cost or delay. This improvement promotes further economic growth and regional development, thus contributing to poverty reduction.

An economic corridor promotes regional economic cooperation. It has the following characteristics:

  • Covers smaller, defined geographic space, usually, straddling a central transport artery such as a road, rail line, or canal;
  • Emphasizes bilateral rather than multilateral initiatives, focusing on strategic nodes particularly at border crossings between two countries;
  • Highlights physical planning of the corridor and its surrounding area, to concentrate infrastructure development and achieve the most positive benefits.

The GMS countries formed an Economic Corridors Forum (ECF) in 2008 to bolster efforts in transforming GMS transport corridors into economic corridors. It is designed to enhance collaboration among areas along the corridors and among GMS sector working groups, and will act as a single body focusing on economic corridor development. This will help improve interaction between the public and private sectors, and between central and local governments.

ADB supports the development of the GMS economic corridors through a regional technical assistance on the development study of the GMS Economic Corridors. This technical assistance has conducted various studies and has formulated strategies to develop the GMS economic corridors, in consultation with the member countries.

The assistance comes in many forms, particularly:

  • Preparing studies and master plans to help corridor development. The GMS Transport Sector Strategy Study is an example.
  • Helping organize and maintain forums and working groups for cooperation/coordination, i.e., Subregional Transport Forum, Working Group on Agriculture.
  • Providing technical assistance that result in feasibility and engineering studies, identification of required regulatory arrangements, packaging of possible private-public partnerships, among others.
  • Assisting in mobilizing funds through direct coordination with development partners and the private sector.

Three Economic Corridors

The North-South Economic Corridor (NSEC) involves three routes along the north to south axis of the GMS geography:

  • The Western Subcorridor: Kunming (PRC) – Chiang Rai (Thailand) – Bangkok (Thailand) via LAO PDR or Myanmar
  • The Central Subcorridor: Kunming (PRC) – Ha Noi (Viet Nam) – Hai Phong (Viet Nam) which connects to the existing Highway No. 1 running from the northern to the southern part of Viet Nam
  • The Eastern Subcorridor: Nanning (PRC) – Ha Noi (Viet Nam) via the Youyi Pass or Fangchenggang (PRC) – Dongxing (PRC) – Mong Cai (Viet Nam) route.

The NSEC will play a critical role in providing Yunnan Province and northern Lao PDR access to important sea ports. Potential market coverage is extensive, given the existing road network from Singapore via Malaysia to Chiang Rai, and from Kunming to Beijing. The corridor is virtually complete, except for a bridge between Lao PDR and Thailand, which is to be constructed soon.

The East-West Economic Corridor (EWEC) runs from Da Nang Port in Viet Nam, through Lao PDR, Thailand, and to the Mawlamyine Port in Myanmar. It extends 1,320 kilometers as a continuous land route between the Indian Ocean (Andaman Sea) and the South China Sea, intersecting the North-South Economic Corridor at the provinces of Tak and Phitsanulok in Thailand.

The EWEC links important commercial nodes in each member country:

  • Mawlamyine-Myawaddy in Myanmar;
  • Mae Sot-Phitsanulok-Khon Kaen-Kalasin-Mukdahan in Thailand;
  • Savannakhet-Dansavanh in Lao PDR; and
  • Lao Bao-Hue-Dong Ha-Da Nang in Viet Nam.

The Southern Economic Corridor (SEC) comprises the following subcorridors and intercorridor link connecting major towns and cities in the southern part of GMS:

  • The Central Subcorridor: Bangkok-Phnom Penh-Ho Chi Minh City-Vung Tau;
  • The Northern Subcorridor: Bangkok-Siem Reap-Stung Treng-Rattanakiri-O Yadov-Pleiku-Quy Nhon;
  • The Southern Coastal Subcorridor: Bangkok-Trat-Koh Kong-Kampot-Ha Tien-Ca Mau City-Nam Can; and
  • The Intercorridor Link: Sihanoukville-Phnom Penh-Kratie-Stung Treng-Dong Kralor (Tra Pang Kriel)-Pakse-Savannakhet, which links the three SEC subcorridors with the East-West Economic Corridor.


Greater Mekong Subregion Unit - Asian Development Bank (ADB) 6th Floor, Mekong Department6 ADB Avenue, Mandaluyong City 1550, Metro Manila, Philippines  Fax +63-2 6362227  E-mail