WASHINGTON, March 31, 2015 — Hundreds of thousands of people in Western China will benefit from better rural roads and highway management with $300 million in loans approved today by the World Bank Group’s Board of Executive Directors.
The loans will finance two projects, at $150 million each, in Gansu and Yunnan provinces. The first one, the Gansu Rural-Urban Integration Project, will build and repair rural roads and bridges connecting 48 villages and benefit 168,000 people, many living below the national poverty line.
“The project will make it faster and safer for villagers to travel or transport goods to cities, and thus help reduce the rural-urban poverty gap,” said Holly Krambeck, the World Bank’s Senior Transport Specialist and task team leader for this project.
Gansu is the second poorest province in China, with 40 percent of its rural population living below the national poverty line. Economic development is hampered by a lack of all-weather transport infrastructure connecting the province’s towns and villages. Only 43 percent of the province’s villages have paved rural roads. Wuwei Municipality and Linxia County were selected for the project because of their large rural population, low incomes and poor transport infrastructure.
The second project, the Yunnan Highway Asset Management Project, will fund the administration and maintenance of highways in Yunnan, and help the government develop an integrated highway asset management approach, which is relatively new in China, based on international best practices. Highway asset management refers to a strategic approach that identifies the optimal allocation of resources for managing, operating and maintaining highways and other related infrastructure.
“The project will take a comprehensive approach to improve the Yunnan Highway Bureau’s asset management capacity, including data collection, planning and budgeting, program delivery, and performance evaluation and monitoring,” said XiaokeZhai, the World Bank’s Senior Transport Specialist and task team leader for this project.
The project is timely, considering the challenges the Yunnan Highway Bureau faces amid a rapid expansion of highways. The agency, for example, doesn’t have an asset management system, an integral database or a road network monitoring and emergency command system. Emergency response and maintenance stations have limited equipment and some of it is in poor condition. Staff needs more on-the-job training in skills and new technologies to meet growing maintenance demands.
“China has made tremendous efforts in investing in the expansion of its transport infrastructure. In the next phase, it will have to shift attention to maintaining those assets,” said Bert Hofman, World Bank Country Director for China.