On September 5-7, Dr. Ghulam Samad, Senior Research Specialist of the CAREC Institute, presented institute’s current research findings on economic corridors development during the 2023 Regional Cooperation and Integration Conference, organized by the ADB in Tbilisi, Georgia. The conference aimed to (i) present the economic corridors development framework and operational guidelines developed to mainstream economic corridors development operations in ADB projects; (ii) share experience on economic corridors development among ADB-supported subregional cooperation programs; and (iii) explore ways to expand and enhance economic corridors development operations in ADB regional cooperation and integration operations.
Economic corridor development plays a crucial role in promoting regional cooperation and integration. A successful economic corridor development will increase connectivity through trade integration and infrastructure development leading to increased regional economic growth. Economic corridor development becomes more important for post-COVID-19 recovery and growth, providing holistic solutions for digitalization, services trade, supply chain restructuring, and greening economies.
During his presentation, Dr. Ghulam Samad noted that the Asian Development Bank included economic corridors development into its Regional Cooperation and Integration operations almost a quarter century ago. ADB’s Regional Cooperation and Integration operations initially emphasized improving regional connectivity amongst the developing member countries. Investments in transport infrastructure were soon complemented with “software” or policy and institutional components of Regional Cooperation and Integration to move goods across borders, facilitate access to raw materials, and promote integration into regional and global value chains. This basic framework, centered on cross-border transport routes and transport and trade facilitation, has defined economic corridors development under ADB-supported subregional cooperation programs even if conceptually it was recognized that development of economic corridors had a broader scope. The initial utility of this transport-centric approach to economic corridors development has diminished considerably over the 25 years of growth and changes in the Asia-Pacific region. The approach is at risk of not matching up to the demands of member countries for economic corridors development nor to the best practices already in use in Asia-Pacific and beyond. “The altered development context calls for a new and broader framework for economic corridors development in ADB’s Regional Cooperation and Integration operations. Subregional cooperation programs in ADB have started moving in the past decade towards a more expanded approach to economic corridors development. Actual implementation of the spatial approach has not been easy, and progress is varied, with little coordination across subregions,” said Dr. Ghulam Samad.