TASHKENT, UZBEKISTAN (14 November 2019) — Ministers from the 11 members of the Central Asia Regional Economic Cooperation (CAREC) Program have endorsed a new strategy designed to improve multimodal transport infrastructure and operations in the region, resulting in greater social and economic development in the next decade.

While the CAREC region is in a strategic location linking East Asia with Europe, the Middle East and South Asia, cross-border trade and transport within the region face significant challenges. While transport infrastructure and operations are much improved in the past two decades, the regional transportation system continues to experience underfunding, inefficient maintenance, and cumbersome cross-border procedures. The resulting low cross-border travel speed and high logistics costs along CAREC’s Multimodal Corridors—six economic corridors that crisscross the region—result in lower regional trade and economic and social growth.

The CAREC Transport Strategy 2030, which was signed today at the 18th CAREC Ministerial Conference in Uzbekistan, addresses these challenges by promoting international good practice in developing regional and national transport policies, developing and maintaining multimodal transport infrastructure, and improving cross-border transport operations. It will also target other procedural and infrastructure bottlenecks that cause delays and added costs along the CAREC economic corridors. The strategy is also aiming at building trust and fostering cooperation between its members to reduce non-physical trade and logistics barriers.

“The CAREC members have made remarkable progress in developing their transport infrastructure and operations in recent years,” said Asian Development Bank (ADB) Vice-President Mr. Shixin Chen and co-chair at the CAREC Ministerial Conference. “The plan endorsed today builds on that progress and outlines a roadmap toward a future in which the CAREC transport system is better able to meet the objectives of regional connectivity, as well as economic, social, and environmental sustainability.”

To improve the cross-border transport and logistics, the strategy emphasizes integrated multimodal transport systems across both land and sea, and better use of information communications technology. It also emphasizes international and regional trade and cross-border transport facilitation agreements among the CAREC members and with the rest of the world, and improved coordination among national transport and border management agencies of individual member states.

The strategy also outlines a new, long-term approach to managing road infrastructure with increased focus on integrated road asset management systems and performance-based maintenance of the highways. Despite significant investment in recent years, existing funding for road maintenance only covers a fraction of the region’s estimated needs. This tends to be spent on older roads in poorer conditions, while newly completed roads are neglected, leading them to deteriorate more quickly.

Given that the death toll from road accidents per capita in the CAREC members is 4-5 times higher than in the OECD, the strategy also aims to improve road safety by upgrading road design standards, supporting national road safety initiatives, and improving emergency response and data collection on road accidents.

The strategy articulates a new approach to railways that prioritizes projects that are economically viable, significantly facilitate cross border freight and encourage private sector participation. Railways are key to promoting economic diversification since they support national agricultural, manufacturing, and mineral resource supply chains. Priority actions will focus on the commercial competitiveness and financial sustainability of the national railways, improving environmental friendliness, and safety and security—including specific solutions for women where applicable.

To realize the relatively untapped potential of aviation in the region, the strategy proposes measures to gradually open aviation markets including to non-domestic airlines and encourages low-cost carriers in the market. A more liberalized regional aviation market also offers good potential for public–private partnership models and would attract strategic investment in aviation infrastructure.

ADB Director General for Central and West Asia Mr. Werner Liepach said: “By encouraging private sector participation in terms of funding and operating transport assets, the new strategy endorsed today will also see CAREC act as an important vehicle for attracting additional private investment. This should lead to greater efficiencies and faster institutional reform at state-owned transport operators, resulting in greater shared sustainable development.”

The CAREC Program is a partnership of 11 countries—Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, the PRC, Georgia, Kazakhstan, the Kyrgyz Republic, Mongolia, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan—to promote economic growth and development through regional cooperation, and supported by development partners. ADB hosts the CAREC Secretariat in its headquarters in Manila.

Since 2001, the CAREC Program has financed 200 regional projects worth $37.0 billion in the areas of transport, energy, and trade. Of this, $14.0 billion has been financed by ADB; $14.8 billion by other development partners such as the World Bank, the Islamic Development Bank, and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development; and $8.2 billion from CAREC governments.

ADB is committed to achieving a prosperous, inclusive, resilient, and sustainable Asia and the Pacific, while sustaining its efforts to eradicate extreme poverty. In 2018, it made commitments of new loans and grants amounting to $21.6 billion. Established in 1966, it is owned by 68 members—49 from the region.

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