ISLAMABAD, PAKISTAN – Asian Development Bank (ADB) President Takehiko Nakao concluded a 2-day visit to Pakistan today. He met with Prime Minister Mian Muhammad Nawaz Sharif; the Finance Minister and ADB Governor, Senator Ishaq Dar, and other senior officials; and attended the 15th Central Asia Regional Economic Cooperation (CAREC) Ministerial Conference, which welcomed Georgia as its 11th member.
At the Ministerial Conference, CAREC Ministers agreed to formulate a new long-term strategy for CAREC to enhance its relevance in the context of changing economic and development conditions. The CAREC Secretariat will initiate work on CAREC 2025 immediately with a view to completing it by 2018.
The CAREC members comprise Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, the People’s Republic of China (PRC), Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyz Republic, Mongolia, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan.
In a special address at the meeting, Mr. Nakao said CAREC had made a valuable contribution to the region’s development but its future will depend on how it adapts to changing economic and development conditions in the region and beyond.
“Regional infrastructure and trade facilitation will likely remain the core of the program but an expanded agenda and new approaches need to be considered,” he said. “With our experience promoting regional cooperation in other parts of Asia and Pacific, ADB is well placed to support CAREC in any new directions the program identifies.”
ADB functions as the Secretariat of the CAREC Program, which promotes regional cooperation in transport, energy, trade facilitation, trade policy, and other key sectors of mutual interest. Cumulatively, the CAREC Program has mobilized $28.9 billion of investments since it was set up in 2001 until end of September 2016, over a third, or $10.1 billion, of which was financed by ADB.
ADB has helped CAREC countries adapt to changing economic conditions. ADB provided countercyclical support to Kazakhstan and policy-based lending to improve the business climate in the Kyrgyz Republic and Tajikistan, and to promote domestic resource mobilization in Georgia. ADB’s continued support to small and medium enterprises, infrastructure investment, and skills development aim to boost longer-term growth.
In a joint statement, the CAREC Ministers noted progress on transport, having reached 93% of their road building or upgrading target to 2020 and adopting a road safety strategy for 2017–2030 that aims to at least halve road fatalities in CAREC by 2030 compared to 2010 levels. This will save an estimated 23,000 lives.
Along the six CAREC transport corridors, 7,230 kilometers of road and more than 4,500 kilometers of rail have been built or rehabilitated. The ministers also adopted a railway strategy to 2030, prioritizing six railway corridors aligned with trade routes.
They were pleased with the status of the Almaty–Bishkek Corridor Initiative as the pilot corridor for CAREC economic corridor development and endorsed an investment framework for the corridor.
On trade policy, they congratulated Kazakhstan and Afghanistan on acceding to the World Trade Organization, and called for deeper collaboration with international development partners, especially in the areas of sanitary and phytosanitary measures, and technical barriers to trade.
They also noted progress on major energy projects coming on stream. 3,835 kilometers of power transmission lines have been constructed during 2013–2015, supporting the expansion of energy trade between Central Asian countries endowed with surplus energy and energy deficit countries in South Asia, including Afghanistan, Pakistan, and beyond. Countries are jointly planning and constructing energy infrastructure. One important example is the Turkmenistan–Uzbekistan–Tajikistan–Afghanistan–Pakistan interconnection program funded by ADB.
Through the ADB-supported CAREC Institute, based in Urumqi, PRC, the program is undertaking capacity building and knowledge work for regional cooperation. An agreement will be signed on the sidelines of the Ministerial Conference establishing the Institute’s legal presence as an intergovernmental organization.
ADB, based in Manila, is dedicated to reducing poverty in Asia and the Pacific through inclusive economic growth, environmentally sustainable growth, and regional integration. Established in 1966, ADB in December 2016 will mark 50 years of development partnership in the region. It is owned by 67 members—48 from the region. In 2015, ADB assistance totaled $27.2 billion, including cofinancing of $10.7 billion.