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Mekong countries agree on bridge linking PRC to Bangkok

Senior officials of several Mekong countries agreed today to build a bridge
across the Mekong River that will connect the southwestern province of the
People’s Republic of China (PRC) directly to Bangkok by road.

The bridge, which will be financed by the governments of the People’s
Republic of China and Thailand, is scheduled for completion in 2011 and
will cross the Mekong River at Chiang Khong, in northern Thailand, and
Houayxay, in Lao PDR. It is the final link in a north-south road system
through the Mekong region under development by nations in the area and ADB
for more than a decade.

“When this vital bridge is completed, it will be possible for the first
time to travel by land directly from Yunnan, People’s Republic of China,
through Lao PDR to Thailand, opening up tremendous potential for increased
trade, tourism, and further integration of the Mekong region,” said ADB
Vice President C. Lawrence Greenwood, Jr.

The signing of the agreement by Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS) Ministers
from the PRC, Lao PDR, and Thailand to build the bridge came at the
conclusion of the 14th Greater Mekong Subregion Ministerial Conference, a
major meeting of senior government officials held at ADB headquarters in
Manila from June 19 to 21. The conference focused on further strengthening
cooperation for economic expansion and poverty reduction in the region.

ADB has been the lead supporter of the Greater Mekong Subregion Economic
Cooperation Program since it began in 1992. Since then, the area has grown
into one of the fastest growing regions in the world, with average gross
domestic product growth of about 6% in recent years.

“Fifteen years of fruitful partnerships and solid achievements are
something to be proud of,” said Mr. Greenwood. “The Greater Mekong
Subregion Program sends a very powerful message: that cooperation and
joint action among neighbors works.”

Cooperation among the GMS countries – including Cambodia, the PRC, the Lao
People’s Democratic Republic, Myanmar, Thailand, and Viet Nam – has
enhanced their connectivity, improved their competitiveness, and developed
a sense of community in the region.

Among the recent accomplishments of the Greater Mekong Subregion program
are the opening in December 2006 of the Government of Japan-funded Second
Mekong International Bridge at the Mukdahan-Savannakhet border between
Thailand and Lao PDR, which completes the East-West Economic Corridor – a
1,500 kilometer stretch of upgraded roads that cuts across four of the six
GMS countries.

Other substantial achievements of the program are the start of work on two
ADB-assisted major railway links in Cambodia and Viet Nam, and the
finalization and signing of all the annexes and protocols of the Agreement
for the Facilitation of Cross Border Transport of Goods and People, as
well as the development of priority cross-border power transmission lines
and advanced work on the finalization of agreements for regional power

In addition, the subregion will soon see the completion of Phase 1 of the
Information Superhighway Network consisting of optical fiber backbone
connections among the GMS countries, as well as measures to address the
region’s environmental challenges through a Core Environment Program.

The subregional grouping has also worked successfully to strengthen
surveillance systems and institutional capacity for controlling the
cross-border spread of communicable diseases, including HIV/AIDS.

Exports of the GMS countries quadrupled from $37 billion in 1992 to $182
billion in 2006. Annual tourist arrivals more than doubled from 10 million
in 1995 to over 22 million in 2006. Foreign direct investment into the GMS
increased from about $3.0 billion in 1992 to about $7.0 billion in 2005.

The recently-concluded conference also considered the results of a midterm
review of the GMS program’s 10-year strategy over 2002-2012, which
recommended a balanced pursuit of continued infrastructure development and
measures to directly improve livelihoods and reduce poverty. The ministers
instructed senior officials to prepare five-year action plans in priority
areas taking into account the results of the midterm review. ADB report

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