BEIJING: A 3,000-km corridor, which starts from Chinas Kashgar in the west and ends at Gwadar in Balochistan, is transforming PakistanÂs energy sector.A power project planned under the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) has cut 13-14 hours of daily power outages in 2013 to zero in 70 percent areas in Pakistan. It has also helped the South Asian country achieve 5.3 percent economic growth in 2017, the highest in last 10 years.The CPEC, a flagship project under the Belt and Road Initiative, aims to promote economic cooperation between Pakistan and China.Proposed by Chinese President Xi Jinping in 2013, the initiative aims to create greater trade, infrastructure and people-to-people links between Asia, Europe, Africa and beyond by reviving and expanding the ancient Silk Road routes. The modern version comprises an overland Silk Road Economic Belt and a 21st-Century Maritime Silk Road.It is a global public good that follows international rules, an international cooperation platform that follows market principles, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi has said.Wang said China will work on both hardware connectivity of infrastructure and software connectivity of policy, regulation and standards. It would be high-standard and economically viable, beneficial to the world as well as to China, he added.
So far the initiative has gained support from more than 100 countries and international organizations and more than 80 of them have signed cooperation agreements with China. According to ChinaÂs Ministry of Commerce, Chinese companies have built 75 zones for economic and trade cooperation in 24 countries along the Belt and Road routes, contributing more than 2.21 billion US dollars in tax revenue and creating almost 209,000 local jobs.
Chinese enterprises made a non-financial direct investment of 14.36 billion dollars in 59 countries along the Belt and Road in 2017.
Moreover, 7,217 overseas projects were signed by Chinese enterprises with 61 countries along the Belt and Road, the value of the newly-signed contracts amounting to 144.32 billion dollars.
British International Trade Secretary Liam Fox said the Belt and Road Initiative holds significant commercial potential for his country, particularly in sustainable infrastructure, financial and legal services, innovation, technology and public health. ÂMore broadly, if well implemented, the Belt and Road Initiative could help support development and global economic growth across Asia and beyond,Â he added.
With the initiative gaining more recognition globally, Western banks are rushing in for a piece of the pie.
British and US banks, including Citigroup, HSBC and Standard Chartered, have been trying to seize the opportunities created by the initiative. According to Financial Times, the big banks have held conferences on the initiative, appointed senior bankers to champion their role in it, and set up committees to coordinate their approaches across different business activities.
Standard Chartered has made the initiative a key part of its strategy to achieve its target of an above 10 percent return on equity.
The bank has won 20 financing deals linked to the initiative over the past four years. These include a 515-million-dollar project financing for a power plant in Zambia, a 200-million-dollar loan for a Bangladesh electricity plant, and a 42-million-dollar export credit facility for a gas terminal in Sri Lanka.
ÂThe Belt and Road Initiative seeks mutual benefits and sustainable cooperation, rather than predatory exploration, Zhang Yuyan, director of the Institute of World Economics and Politics under the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said. This is being recognized by other countries.
PanamaÂs President Juan Carlos Varela said his country seeks to be part of the initiative. Panama is proposing the construction of a railroad between it and other Central American countries, with a 450-km track to its northern neighbor Costa Rica as the first step. ÂWe hope to get Chinese companies and Chinese technology to complete the entire project between 2022 and 2026. A railway connecting Central America could help to increase the flow of goods arriving from East Asia in Panama City, Varela said.
Wee Ka Siong, a minister in MalaysiaÂs Prime MinisterÂs Department, said ChinaÂs growing influence could become a positive energy to bring greater prosperity to other countries and build a community with a shared future for humanity.
Published in Daily Times