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    ADB to give $222m for roads, rail tracks

    KABUL (PAN): The Asian Development Bank (ADB) has pledged $222 million in aid to Afghanistan for the construction of 145 kilometres of roads and establishment of an independent railways department, officials said on Wednesday.

    A contract to the effect was signed between ADB's Country Director Robert Rinker and Finance Minister Hazrat Omar Zakhilwal at a ceremony in Kabul. Zakhilwal said $189 million of the assistance would be spent on the construction of a 50-km portion of the Kabul-Jalalabad dual road.

    A 51-km road linking Jabalus Saraj district of Parwan with the Nijrab town of Kapisa and another 44 km road between Baharak and Faizabad districts of Balkh would also be constructed, he said.

    The remaining amount would be used to establish an independent railways department, the minister said. The department is being established within the framework of the Ministry of Public Works, which will supervise the construction of rail tracks.

    Work on the construction of railway lines from Kabul to Mazar-i-Sharif and Kabul to the Torkham dry port is expected to begin soon.  A 75-kilomentre railroad between Mazar-i-Sharif and the Hairatan dry port had already been built with ADB assistance.

    Led by the presidential advisor on economics affairs, a commission comprised of representatives from the ministries of public works, finance, economy and commerce has been set up to evolve a mechanism for the railways department, said the deputy public works minister, Eng. Ahmad Shah Waheed.

    ADB Vice-President (Operations 1) Xiaoyu Zhao said road infrastructure was necessary for Afghanistan's economic development. He assured the country of sustainable assistance.

    Zakhilwal said the bank had previously pledged $2.2 billion in assistance, but only $1.7 billion of the pledge had so far been received. He said Afghanistan needed assistance because most part of it would be incorporated in the government budget.