ADB rolls out US $ 1-B for priority projects in BIMP-EAGA

HANOI, Vietnam (MindaNews/30 October) —  The Asian Development Bank (ADB) is rolling out some US $1 billion in technical assistance for priority infrastructure projects in the eastern Southeast Asian sub-region within the next two years.

Arjun Goswami, advisor and chief of ADB’s regional cooperation and integration group, said the project covers the construction and improvement of road networks, seaports and power transmission lines that will interconnect key economic centers within the surging Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines-East ASEAN Growth Area (BIMP-EAGA).

“There are 12 projects currently in the pipeline that we’re targeting to begin later this year and will continue until 2011,” he told reporters at the sidelines of the ongoing 17th Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Summit here.

BIMP-EAGA comprises the entire sultanate of Brunei Darussalam; the provinces of East and West Kalimantan, North Sulawesi, Kalimantan, Maluku island chain and Irian Jaya in Eastern Indonesia; the federal states of Sabah and Sarawak and the federal territory of Labuan in Eastern Malaysia; and, the islands of Mindanao and Palawan in the Philippines.

According to the ADB website, the project’s Philippines component, which has a total allocation of some US $101 million, covers the first and second phases of the Mindanao ports expansion program, Palawan ports development program and the rehabilitation of the Davao-General Santos road.

The ADB allocated US$15.2 million for the Kuala Lurah border crossing facility and the Pandaruan bridge project that will connect Brunei and Malaysia; US$632.7 million for the Tarakan-Serudong road project, Sarawak-Kalimantan power interconnection, Pontianak-Entikong transport link and the enhancement of the Manado-Bitung link in Indonesia; and, US$206 million for the Malaysia component of the Sarawak-Kalimantan power interconnection project and the development of the Lahud Datu Palm Oil industrial cluster.

Kunio Senga, director general of ADB’s Southeast Asia department, said the assistance is mainly aimed at preparing the sub-region for the entry of major investments into the area in the coming years.

He said it will also help enhance ASEAN’s ongoing efforts to enhance the road, rail, air, and sea linkages within the region and the integration of its key markets.

“ASEAN, in my view, needs a top-down approach to reach integration. I could say that the ASEAN leaders’ recognition of what is happening on the ground, looking at the sub-regional economic initiatives, is making all these regional integration targets becoming a reality,” he said in a press briefing.

ADB has been assisting the development of Southeast Asia’s three sub-regional groupings that also includes the Greater Mekong Sub-region (GMS) and the Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand-Growth Triangle (IMT-GT).

Senga cited that they are looking at replicating the successes generated by their assistance and investments in the GMS area for the last 20 years into the BIMP-EAGA sub-region, which he described as mostly composed of areas that are considered “less fortunate, less developed and less advanced.”

“We can see the results coming out of now from the GMS through the foreign direct investments going into the Mekong region, the enhanced intra-trading there and the number of tourist arrivals. All these have exhibited strong positive results by having integrated markets within Mekong and we want to see similar things to happen in the BIMP-EAGA,” he said.

In terms of investments, Senga said they want to usher in ventures that will not only improve BIMP-EAGA’s economy but eventually help address the disparity and lingering poverty in the area.

“I believe each country should pay more attention to address the underlying disparity in the less fortunate regions so we can start seeing real and inclusive growth overall,” he added. (Allen V. Estabillo/MindaNews)