The Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) forwarded by Chinese President Xi Jinping in 2013 has passed its five years of ups and downs. With many successful stories accomplished across the world, the BRI has come to the new stage while holding the second International Cooperation for Belt and Road Forum. Chinese President Xi is inaugurating the BRF on 26 April 2019 in Beijing amid the presence of 37 head of state and government.
The forum to be attended by some 5,000 participants from more than 150 countries is taking place at a time when the world is closely watching the Beijing-proposed initiative with much attention. The forum themed “Belt and Road Cooperation: Shaping a Brighter Shared Future” is looked by the critics with suspicions while the BRI members have pinned high hopes on it and have expected much role of the BRI for the development and enhanced cooperation based on mutual benefits. This is because, so far, altogether 126 countries including G7 member state Italy and 29 international organizations have signed up for the world’s ever largest project. China’s Belt and Road Initiative is deemed to be the largest scale global development project as its total investment will be representing 70 percent of the world’s population, 55 percent of its GDP, and 75 percent of its energy reserves. Likewise, UN agencies have also established firm collaboration with BRI for the development of humankind and to meet the SDGs by 2030.
As the BRI started to bear fruits, the peoples have already started to praise this multi-billion intercontinental project. The peoples have come up with the nations’ stories to share with the world viewing that the BRI has helped promote the quality of peoples’livelihood with better infrastructure development.
In the eve of the BRF, China Global Television Network (CGTN) show ‘Vision into Reality’ offered the open discussions and deliberations from the field in regard to rumours against the BRI, its benefits to the peoples and the contribution made by the BRI projects for regional development.
According to a participant from Uganda, the ambitious initiative is changing the lives of millions of peoples in Africa with mega projects, mainly the high-speed railways, opening up business and development opportunities in the continent.
Talking part in the show, a Maldivian participant said that Sinamale Bridge of 2.1 kilometers in length and 20.3 meters in width opened on August 30, 2018 referred to as the China-Maldives Friendship Bridge has linked the country’s only international airport to the capital city of Male by cutting the time and distance heavily short. “The bridge has changed people’s lives and businesses, making things much easier for everyone living in the area, as well as those visiting the country,” she shared her nation’s story. Similarly, a participant from Fiji said that multi-million-dollar projects sponsored under the BRI also include the redevelopment of the Suva Civic Centre Auditorium and construction of a state-of-the-art sports facility for Marist Brothers High School.
Rumours of debt trap
According to media reports, China is planning to invest four trillion US dollars in 65 countries spanning from Eastern China to Western Europe, covering the continent of Africa and the countries of East and Southeast Asia. The countries need trillions of dollars to meet their financing gaps since they are cash strapped to forward their development projects. Amid such circumstance, the BRI can be the way out to meet the budget crunch as the AIIB and Silk Road Fund could dole out the money under different modality. As Nepal too is also reeling under the crisis of financing gap, the BRI could be the best solution to fund many projects, particularly hydropower projects, highways and others.
According to a study by the China Africa Research Initiative at John Hopkins University, Africa owed some 36 percent of its total external debt to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank (WB) in 2018. Between 2000 and 2016, the debt from China to the continent was merely 1.8 percent. So, data speaks loud and clear! The myth of the debt trap is itself dispelled. Ultimately, most of the loans are concessional with no political preconditions but with long maturities and low interest rates, the allegation on debt trap is not a valid proposition. So, this has come to seize the opportunity to transform the vision into reality and uplift the people’s life from poverty to prosperity across the needy communities in the world. By Mahendra Subedi