road project with Kazakhstan to upgrade the trade route linking Asian countries with Russia and Europe.

The project is expected to boost Kazakhstan’s competitiveness and to bring significant economic benefits to the country and the broader Central Asia region.

The World Bank is expected to finance and rehabilitate a 1,025 km stretch of road between Shymkent and Aktobe. This is part of a $7.5 billion project to upgrade the 2,800 km road corridor from Kazakhstan’s border with China, at Khorgos to the border with Russia, at Srym.

The region’s largest infrastructure project supported by the World Bank will kickstart in 2009.

The World Bank said it is cooperating closely with other partners including Asian Development Bank, Islamic Development Bank and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development for the larger project.

The agreement was announced after Kazakhstan’s Prime Minister Karim Massimov met with World Bank Group president Robert B. Zoellick, who recently concluded a three-day visit to assess how the institution can better serve the Central Asian country.

“Following part of the ancient Silk Road that linked east and west, this project will establish a modern transport corridor through Kazakhstan,” said Mr Zoellick.

“It will boost Kazakhstani trade, competitiveness, logistics, and infrastructure connections with the world, while providing an artery for regional economic cooperation.”