A special law obviating the need for competitive bidding underpins a new contract for four sections of key highways in North Macedonia, with value equivalent to 10% of the tiny republic's gross domestic product.

In a contract sealed on March 8, Bechtel Corp. and Enka İnşaat ve Sanayi A.Ş., its long-standing Turkish joint venture partner, will build 68 miles of highways, set for completion in 2027. The role of private financing is not being disclosed.

Under a contract reportedly valued at $1.4 billion, Bechtel and Enka will build stretches of North Macedonia's section of Pan-European Corridor VIII, which runs east-west between Bulgaria’s Black Sea port of Varna and Albania’s Durres port on the Adriatic Sea. Their contract also includes parts of Corridor X, from Austria into Greece.

Investing in highway infrastructure is "one of the main priorities of the government," noted Prime Minister Dimitar Kovacevsk at the contract signing ceremony. The contract represents "the biggest infrastructure project in our country," added First Deputy Prime Minister Artan Grubiy.

The contract covers a part of Corridor 8 totaling roughly 24 miles between Tetovo, south of the capital Skopje, and Bukojčani. A 14-mile section around the north of Lake Orchid, from Trebeništa to the Albanian border at Qafasan is also included. Further south, on Corridor 10, the team will build a 24-mile stretch from Prilep to Bitola, close the Greek border.

A special law, passed in 2021, effectively eliminated competition for the work. So, the government has hired an advisor "to mitigate associated governance concerns," notes the International Monetary Fund in a report. Last month, the government recruited a joint venture led by Italy-based IRD Engineering SRL for this work.

The Bechtel-Enka team "has a long history of successfully delivering complex motorway projects in the region," according to Mark Allison, general manager of Bechtel’s heavy civil infrastructure business. Over many years, the team records building more than 17,400 miles of highways, 100 tunnels and 26 major bridges.