The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development has extended a $103 million loan to support upgrades to a stretch of the highway that connects Kazakhstan’s capital with its largest city, the bank announced in a Feb. 18 press release.
The loan, to national road operator Kazavtozhol, is to be used to widen and upgrade the 80-kilometre Kurty-Buribaital stretch of the highway that connects Almaty and Astana. It comes as part of a larger programme to rehabilitate and upgrade a 228-km stretch of the highway that remains unmodernised, the press release said. It also falls under a broad programme co-financed by the World Bank and the government of Kazakhstan to rehabilitate road infrastructure.
“For Kazakhstan, the project we are signing today with the EBRD is much more than just a financing package. The project also envisages reforms in the road sector that will improve the entire sector’s financial sustainability,” said Minister of Finance Bakhyt Sultanov at the signing ceremony, the EBRD reported.
The agreement was signed by Sultanov, EBRD President Suma Chakrabarti and CEO of Kazavtozhol Yermek Kizatov during the Feb. 18 Central Asia Investment Forum in Istanbul. Organised by the EBRD and the Financial Times, the forum invited investors, policymakers and other experts to discuss investment opportunities and challenges in Central Asia.
“The EBRD and Kazakhstan have recently agreed to further increase investment in infrastructure, and I am very pleased that only three months later we are signing this project, hopefully the first of many,” said Chakrabarti at the signing ceremony, per the EBRD. “The EBRD believes that modern road infrastructure in Kazakhstan is crucial for the country’s own economy as well as for boosting regional trade.”
Infrastructure development, including transit infrastructure, underpins Kazakhstan’s Strategic Plan 2020, and many roads linked to the Centre-South Corridor have already been upgraded, the press release noted. The EBRD is also working with the government of Kazakhstan on road financing and maintenance solutions, including tolls and heavy-vehicle charges.
The Kurty-Buribaital road project falls under the umbrella of an agreement to increase cooperation on road sector reform and investment signed by the EBRD and the Kazakh government in London this past November. The EBRD announced in January that it had invested a record $1.55 billion in Central Asia in 2015, with nearly $800 million going to Kazakhstan. The bank has said it plans to invest $1 billion in Kazakhstan before the end of 2016. To date, the EBRD has invested more than $7 billion in the Kazakh economy.