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Singapore-China Rail Link by 2015
Published in Saudi Press Agency on 27 - 08 - 2006

SOUTHEAST Asian nations hope a proposed major railway project linking Singapore to southern China will be ready by 2015 to facilitate the flow of goods and people across the region, officials said according to The Associated Press.
The Asian Development Bank has provided Cambodia soft loans of $40 million to build missing links and another $5.4 million has been secured as grants for the project, said Ong Keng Yong, secretary-general of the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations.
But overall progress for the rail line spanning 5,000 km from Singapore to the Chinese city of Kunming has been hindered by a lack of funds and other technical issues relating to building connecting rails to link it to major towns across the region, he said.
“The work is being done on a national level to join up with the rail link but we need more funding,” Ong told reporters after a meeting of the ASEAN-Mekong Basin Development Cooperation.
Senior officials will meet in November in Kunming to review the project and identify new sources of funds, he said. The group did not set any target date for completion but ´we must have some connection? by the time the bloc fuse into an ASEAN Economic Community by 2015, he added.
Ong didn't say how much the project is worth but trade officials previously estimated it will cost at least $1.8 billion. Officials said construction has also been hindered by difficult terrain in some countries, clearing land mines in Cambodia and Laos, and harmonizing customs and immigration.
The railway project is expected to better bind the economies of the region and provide southern China with easier access to ASEAN markets.
ASEAN trade ministers earlier this week agreed to bring forward plans to turn the region into a single market and production base by 2015, five years earlier than originally planned. The bloc also aims to create a free trade zone with China by 2010.
Apart from the rail project, the group also needs funds worth $44 million for 15 projects involving capacity building, training and other projects to develop the Mekong Basin, said Myanmar Minister for National Planning and Economic Development, U Soe Tha.
To woo new funds, he said membership of the ASEAN-Mekong Basin Development Cooperation - currently involving only ASEAN and China - will be opened to interested parties such as the Asian Development Bank and the region's trading partners.

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