The Khmer Times, 16 May 2017
China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) is emerging to be the key factor shaping the new world economic order, with the emphasis on an open and inclusive international economic system.
China is the fulcrum of an evolving global economic architecture. It is the leading force against de-globalization that is driven by reemerging populism and protectionism.
The first two-day Belt and Road Forum has concluded in Beijing with a collective commitment from all the participating countries to deliver more concrete results through policy coordination and practical cooperation.
The forum was the largest gathering since the launch of the BRI in 2013. The list of participants includes 29 heads of state and government, more than 50 leaders of international organizations, more than 100 ministerial-level officials as well as over 1,200 delegates from various countries and regions.
“The Belt and Road Initiative originates from China, but belongs to the whole world,” President Xi Jinping said at the opening ceremony, which implicitly referred to the importance of collective ownership and leadership.
He highlighted the history and spirit of the initiative – that is guided by peace and cooperation, openness and inclusiveness, mutual learning and mutual benefit.
China has also pledged $174 billion to execute concrete BRI projects.
Peace, prosperity, opening up, innovation and civilizations connecting are the five objectives of the BRI. Mutual understanding and trust building are the foundations of the BRI.
All countries are expected to greatly benefit from the BRI through policy cooperation and practical projects. The BRI is compatible with and complementary to the UN Sustainable Development Goals 2030.
Infrastructure development projects must be financially sound, environmentally friendly, socially acceptable and disaster resilient. Transparency and accountability need to be improved.
Southeast Asian countries have expressed their interest and support in joining the BRI at different levels. Overall, they believe the BRI is complimentary to their national development strategies and Asean connectivity and community building.
The BRI creates huge opportunities for Cambodia to develop and catch up with other regional countries, especially by leveraging on its bilateral trust with China to attract more investments and development assistance.
Cambodia stands to further benefit more from Chinese investment in infrastructure such as roads, rail, ports, and hydropower plants which is going to increase significantly in the coming years.
More than 10 bilateral agreements are expected to be signed today in Beijing.
Cambodia’s ruling elites believe the BRI will enhance its resource legitimacy and regime legitimacy through expanding infrastructure development and by generating economic opportunities.
They believe that BRI will help realize Cambodia’s development strategy such as the Rectangular Strategy and Industrial Development Strategy (2015-2025). The BRI will also contribute to the realization of the vision of becoming a middle-income country by 2030 and a high-income country by 2050.
Cambodia needs about $600 million in infrastructure development and logistic networks annually to maintain its economic development momentum and enhance its competitiveness.
Logistics in Cambodia is less developed compared with other Asean member countries due to the lack of a reliable network of transportation, telecommunications, warehousing, trucking services and other related infrastructure.
Another key constraint in attracting foreign direct investment is the cost of electricity – the electricity cost is higher than that in its neighboring countries Laos, Thailand and Vietnam.
During the meetings with Chinese companies in Beijing last weekend, Prime Minister Hun Sen convinced them to invest in Cambodia.
China Huanneng Group has a joint venture with Cambodia’s Royal Group and has invested in the 400-megawatt Lower Sesan hydropower dam – the biggest dam in Cambodia so far with investment capital of about $900 million.
China National Heavy Machinery Corporation has invested $1.4 billion in constructing the 246-megawatt Stung Tata hydropower plant in Koh Kong province and supplies 30 percent of the total national power grid in Cambodia.
The China Communication Construction Company has invested in 16 road projects with total capital of $1.6 billion. The company is going to invest in constructing the Phnom Penh-Sihanoukville expressway with a length of 190 kilometres and is exploring investment opportunities in railway and port development projects.