The FINANCIAL — The World Bank on July 14 approved a US$230 million road project (financed by a US$200 million World Bank loan) to rehabilitate key roads that have been holding back underdeveloped regions in Tunisia. By improving road connections with the more developed coast, the Road Transport Corridors Project aims to provide greater economic and other opportunities for an estimated 373,500 residents in Tunisia’s poorer regions
The project will widen and upgrade about 146 km of roads in three corridors to some of Tunisia’s least developed regions. These will include improvements to the road connecting Sousse, a key economic center on the coast, to Kairouan in the Center-West, which has a poverty rate (32%) that is twice the national average. The other two corridors to be rehabilitated link Siliana in the North-West of Tunisia to El Fahs in the North-East, and Zaghouan to Jebel El Oust near the capital, Tunis. The project will also strengthen Tunisia’s capacity to manage its road network, according to the World Bank.
“Improving roads, reducing transport costs and time will bring immense benefits to lagging regions,” said Eileen Murray, World Bank Country Manager for Tunisia. ”This project is part of the Bank Group strategy of support for government efforts to promote social and economic inclusion.”
The Road Transport Corridors Project will provide short-term benefits in terms of jobs for local communities, as well as long-term benefits by creating infrastructure vital for trade. Easier, safer and cheaper access to the interior will encourage private investment and job creation, while also addressing gaps in human development. “Linking underdeveloped regions with the centers of economic activity is one element, but the project also reduces disparities by improving access to health and education services,” said Vickram Cuttaree, the Bank’s Task Team Leader and Senior Infrastructure Economist.
Aside from the Road Transport corridor project, the World Bank Group finances Development Policy Loans and a portfolio of 22 investment and technical assistance operations in Tunisia. These include 10 loans totaling about US$1 billion, and 12 grants for US$51 million that are focused on water and sanitation, wastewater, decentralization, financing for micro, small and medium enterprises, and rural development.