SARAJEVO, Dec 21 (Reuters) - Bosnia’s Bosniak-Croat Federation has signed a 350 million Bosnian marka ($237 million) deal with Turkish construction company Cengiz Insaat to build the remaining 10 kilometres of a 20 km section of a future north-to-south highway.
Mountainous Bosnia has only around 40 km of highways. It plans to build another 40 km in the next two years as part of the pan-European VC corridor linking Budapest, Hungary, in the north with the Croatian port of Ploce in the south.
“This contract has been the most valuable single contract signed so far for the construction of the VC corridor,” Ensad Karic, the director of the Bosniak-Croat autonomous region’s roads and highways authority Autoceste, said on Friday.
The funding for the construction of the Vlakovo-Lepenica section has been secured through a loan from the European Investment Bank, which is along with the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development the key creditor of infrastructure projects in the Balkan country.
Earlier this year, Cengiz Insaat won two other deals to build 10 km of the 20 km-long Vlakovo-Tarcin section, south of Sarajevo, estimated to cost a total of around 700 million marka. It consists of 3.5 km of tunnels and an interchange.
“The Vlakovo-Tarcin section is the most important part of the VC corridor,” said Cengiz Insaat General Manager Kemal Unluer, adding the length of tunnels due to be built is half of the total length of all tunnels at the corridor.
Unluer signed an agreement with seven local companies that will assist with construction works worth 200 million marka. The works should be completed in 20 months.
“Around 3,000 workers will be engaged on this section alone,” said Federation Prime Minister Nermin Niksic. “We think that this will be an engine of growth in the Federation and in Bosnia-Herzegovina.”
Bosnia has an unemployment rate of 28 percent and its economy has been stagnating in recent years because of the crisis in Europe and lack of reforms.
Officials see infrastructure and energy projects planned in the next year as a chance for economic growth.
On Friday, Autoceste called for bids in an international tender for the works on the 3-km-long Vijenac tunnel on the highway section Drivusa-Kakanj in central Bosnia.
$1=1.476 Bosnian marka Reporting by Daria Sito-Sucic; Editing by Mark Potter