K3.1bil loan for roads

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By GYNNIE KERO and CHARLES MOI
THE Highlands Highway is one of five major roads to be upgraded “to world-class standard” using the K3.14 billion ($US1bil) loan from the Asian Development Bank.
The others are the Madang-Ramu Road, Sepik Highway, Buluminski Highway and New Britain Highway.
Prime Minister Peter O’Neill, explaining to Parliament yesterday how the ADB loan would be used, also said the Government was not looking at other borrowings at the moment.
He said the ADB loan would be used to upgrade “unstable areas of the highways”.
The bulk of it is for rebuilding the Highlands Highway to a standard “so we don’t have to go back continuously and maintain the road over and over again”.
“We are lifting the quality and scoping of those works. We are also building bridges in the country through this ADB programme. The US$1 billion will not be drawn down in one year.”
Chief Secretary Isaac Lupari, the chairman of the steering committee of the sustainable highlands highway programme, said the Works Department was the implementing agency in the 10-year multi-financing arrangement.
“This concept of dealing with the highlands highway is a one-stop shop. We will deal with aspects of design, upgrading, rehabilitation and maintenance,” he said.
Lupari said when roads were constructed, upgrading and maintenance were often not factored into the project.
“As a result, the roads are overused and there’s lack of monitoring and no maintenance,” Lupari said.
He said the Highlands Highway served the 45 per cent of the population who lived in that region of the country.
The Highlands also contributes to almost one third to the national Gross Domestic Product. It is a life-line for country because of the contribution the Highlands region makes to the national economy, Lupari said.
“Once and for all, we will fix the highlands highway,” he said.
“They will find a technology that will be able to withstand the effects of climate change on the Highlands Highway.” ADB country director Marcelo Minc said the bank’s aim was to create employment and economic opportunities in PNG.
“We also would like the Highlands Highway to link with other programmes and projects that we are doing in the country (including) the Lae port which has already been constructed,” Minc said.
Lupari heads the steering committee of the sustainable highlands highway programme comprising officials from the departments of Treasury, Finance, Works and Transport.

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