World Bank to fund more rural roadwork in Armenia

By RFE/RL | Sunday, 18 July 2010

YEREVAN (RFE/RL)-The World Bank announced on Friday the release of a fresh US$40 million loan designed to finance the reconstruction and repair of some 430 kilometers of rural roads across Armenia.

In February 2009, the bank allocated more than US$100 million in funding such projects. The first two installments of the Lifeline Road Improvement Project (LRIP) were disbursed last year. More than 150 kilometers of roads have been rebuilt since then.

The third LRIP tranche approved by the bank's Board of Directors late on Thursday will cover 190 kilometers of so-called "lifeline roads" connecting rural communities in nine Armenian provinces to major highways. The project is slated for completion by the end of 2013.

"Rehabilitation of additional lifeline roads would create temporary jobs in rural areas, which have been hit by the [global economic] crisis, and improve access to basic social services," Asad Alam, the World Bank's regional director for the South Caucasus, said in a statement. "While this immediate impact is critical, the project will also improve market connectivity for rural areas and build upon the ongoing efforts to strengthen the basis for growth and competitiveness."

The statement estimated that rural communities lacking adequate roads lose at least 40 percent of their farmers' harvest. Upgraded roads will thus allow them to bring their produce to market "more easily and at a lower cost," it says.

Ani Balabanian, an official at the World Bank's Yerevan office overseeing the project, told journalists that the bank and the Armenian government selected roads that are "particularly impassable." She confirmed that some of those roads were due to be repaired by the U.S. Millennium Challenger Corporation (MCC).

The MCC had set aside $67 million for that project in 2006. The U.S. government agency cancelled the promised assistance last year, citing the Armenian government's poor human rights record and its 2008 post-election crackdown on the opposition.