* Loan to help finance $1.28 bln “clean power” project
* Japanese agency to supply additional $300 mln
By Robin Paxton and Rie Ishiguro
TASHKENT, May 1 (Reuters) - The Asian Development Bank (ADB) agreed on Saturday to lend $350 million to Uzbekistan to help the Central Asian country build a new gas turbine and improve energy efficiency.
The funds will contribute toward construction of the $1.28 billion Talimarjan Clean Power Project, the first 800 megawatt combined cycle gas turbine in Central Asia, the ADB said in a statement.
Uzbekistan, Central Asia’s most populous country, has received $1.1 billion in 26 loans since joining the ADB in 1995, and uses four times more energy than the world average to produce one dollar of gross domestic product.
“This is due to ageing and dilapidated energy infrastructure, a low technological base and a lack of investment,” the bank said.
The Talimarjan project, 440 km (275 miles) southwest of the Uzbek capital Tashkent, intends to save energy through clean power generation.
The Japan International Cooperation Agency will supply a further $300 million toward the project, while the remainder will be supplied by the Uzbek government, its reconstruction and development fund and the state power utility.
ADB President Haruhiko Kuroda signed the deal with Uzbek Finance Minister Rustam Azimov at a ceremony on the eve of the bank’s 43rd annual meeting in the Uzbek capital Tashkent.
Kuroda also signed the first $115 million loan instalment under a $600 million financing facility that will include reconstruction of over 220 km of a major road corridor linking Uzbekistan to the four other ex-Soviet Central Asian republics and Afghanistan.
He also signed loans covering water supply and a micro-finance project to help small enterprises, mostly in rural Uzbekistan. Uzbekistan is the 14th largest borrower within the ADB and the organisation’s 15th largest shareholder.
Editing by Keiron Henderson