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Bangladesh, Dhaka (BBN) – The Bangladesh government signed a $500 million financing agreement with the World Bank (WB) on Monday to help upgrade the western region of the country.

Under the programme titled ‘Western Economic Corridor and Regional Enhancement (WeCARE) Program Phase I’ the Jashore-Jhenaidah highway will be upgraded and the connecting rural roads and markets will be improved.

The project will help to upgrade the 48 KM two-lane Jashore-Jhenaidah road to a modern 4-lane highway and benefit over 20 million people living in the western region, said a press release of the WB.

The project will also help rehabilitate about 600 km connecting rural roads and build new or develop existing rural markets.

It will also install fiber-optic cables along the highway to ensure fast and reliable internet service.

“With better connectivity and logistics, farmers will be able to reach new and existing markets in less time and cost, and will also minimise loss from spoilage of perishable goods,” said Mercy Tembon, the World Bank Country Director for Bangladesh and Bhutan.

“The economic corridor will create new opportunities for people and stimulate the local economy. Moreover, this will help Bangladesh become a regional hub for trade, transit and logistics” he added.

A “safe system approach” will be piloted along the highway to reduce fatalities and injuries due to road crashes. The project will set up separate lanes for slow-moving vehicles, road crash barriers, signage, and safe crossing facilities for pedestrians.

“This is a ground-breaking project that will help improve transport network,” said Fatima Yasmin, the Secretary of Economic Relations Division of the Government of Bangladesh.

“Improvement in the logistics and transport in the western districts will further help accelerate economic growth and development for the entire country, she added.”

The project is the first of a multi-phased $1.4 billion 10-year program to upgrade the existing 110 KM two-lane highway, Bhomra-Satkhira-Navaron and Jashore-Jhenaidah. In the current phase, the project will be implemented in four districts: Jashore, Jhenaidah, Magura, and Chuadanga.

In the first two years, the project will create about 1.3 million day works for local rural people in civil works.

Fatima Yasmin and Mercy Tembon signed the agreement on behalf of the Bangladesh and World Bank, respectively.

The credit from the World Bank’s International Development Association, has a 34-year term, including a four-year grace period.

The World Bank was among the first development partners to support Bangladesh following its independence. Since then, the World Bank has committed more than $33.5 billion in grants, interest-free, and concessional credits to the country.