Government, World Bank sign $ 500 m agreement: Focus on inclusive connectivity and development

By Uwin Lugoda 

The Government and the World Bank recently signed a $ 500 million financing agreement to support one of the biggest infrastructure initiatives currently taking place in the country. The signing of the agreement, which took place last week, saw the financing of the Inclusive Connectivity and Development Project, which is a part of the “100,000 km Rural Roads Development Programme” umbrella initiative. This project is set to provide safe, efficient, and climate-resilient connectivity to strengthen agricultural supply chains. 

In a media release, the Government stated that the project will aid local farmers by connecting them to resources and domestic and international markets. 

The agreement was signed by Finance Ministry Secretary S.R. Attygalle on behalf of the Government, along with World Bank Vice President for South Asia Hartwig Schafer. 

Speaking to The Sunday Morning, Atygalle stated that this money would go towards the rural connectivity and inclusive roads initiatives the Government has been working on. He went on to explain that an uninterrupted and safe road network in Sri Lanka was crucial to connect rural communities to health and education services and provide them access to economic opportunities.

“This money will go towards our rural connectivity and inclusive roads project, which is part and parcel of the 100,000 km rural roads project. The main project will work towards the development of these roads, outside of highways, and the Government will award these projects to our local contractors,” said Atygalle. 

During the signing, it was highlighted that while nearly all roads were paved, only 67% of provincial roads and 13% of rural roads were in good condition. Sri Lanka also has the highest rate of road fatalities in the South Asian region, with around 3,000 deaths per year. 

“Scaled-up road investments will contribute to the acceleration of human capital in Sri Lanka, leading to sustainable and inclusive economic growth,” said Schafer at the event. 

The project is also expected to build on the ongoing provincial and rural roads rehabilitation initiatives under the World Bank-financed Transport Connectivity and Asset Management Project and Asian Development Bank-funded Integrated Road Investment Programmes – iRoad I and II.

The project will support the Government of Sri Lanka to expand its services by building on the lessons learned and establishing a comprehensive system to improve rural connectivity in an inclusive manner while improving rural livelihoods.

This project is implemented under the Highways Ministry, with a national steering committee set to be established for overseeing.

The “100,000 km Rural Roads Development Programme” is a key initiative of the national development strategy of the Government. It is aimed at improving connectivity between rural areas, small and medium towns, and socioeconomic hubs. 

The initiative is estimated to benefit around 16 million people living in rural communities in selected districts of Sri Lanka. 

Considering the unsuitability of and fractured interconnections in the existing road system, the establishment of an efficient and advanced road system was promised in the national policy framework “Vistas of Prosperity and Splendour”. 

According to data from the Presidential Secretariat, the construction of 8,000 km of roads has commenced, with around 400 km having already been completed as of September. The development is being carried out whilst following environmental protection guidelines, and the 100,000 kms of rural road is set to be completed in 2024, the Ministry of Highways said.