Stop politicising Belt & Road, says finance minister

- ANIL GIRI, Kathmandu

Nov 21, 2018-

Finance Minister Yubaraj Khatiwada on Tuesday expressed his discontent over the slow progress of China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and stressed it is “time for action” and to stop politicising the plan that aims regional economic development.

Addressing an event, attended by Chinese and Nepali scholars, the minister said, “The BRI has been overly indoctrinated. Let us work and find tangible projects.” The Centre for South Asian Studies and Chinese Embassy in Kathmandu hosted the event titled ‘BRI and South Asia’.

Nepal listed 35 projects after it joined BRI in 2017. The Finance Ministry has listed 35 projects, including connectivity, infrastructure, energy, trade and investment, under BRI, but they are yet to start in the absence of financing modalities with China.

As a regional initiative, it should have sense of togetherness, sensitivity and ownership, said Khatiwada.

Speaker Krishna Bahadur Mahara, who first signed the concept paper on BRI in Beijing in 2016 as foreign minister, admitted to the challenges in implementing BRI due to geopolitical competition.

“Time has come to implement the BRI. We have to consider our interests and we should move on. We have to chart out our plan without any reluctance. Some lawmakers have demanded discussion on BRI, I shall initiate this soon,” said Mahara.

Chinese Ambassador to Nepal Yu Hong dismissed talks of “debt trap” surrounding BRI and said economic, investment and trade and tourism engagements between Nepal and China are thriving.

China’s foreign direct investment into Nepal is the highest for the last three consecutive years. Tourist arrivals from China have increased 33 percent this year and six Chinese cities operate direct flights to Kathmandu are the results of BRI, she said.

“We have granted 800 scholarships to deserving Nepalis annually. At least 6,800 Nepali students are pursuing higher education in China at present,” she said.

The envoy stressed that a lot is happening in Nepal and said, “I do not understand that nothing is happening in Nepal while we talk about implementing BRI.”

It is not only about projects, she said, it is also about policy matters too. She admitted some China-funded projects such as the Ring Road in Kathmandu are not complete.

Three Chinese scholars Rong Yang, Senior Research Fellow at Center for International Studies, Beijing; Zhu Caihau of Chinese Academy of International Trade and Economic Co-operation, Beijing, and Ye Hailan of National Institute of International Strategy also spoke about the BRI, globalisation and how the western media tried to defame BRI calling it a “debt trap” among others.

The Chinese scholars visited Pakistan and Sri Lanka prior to arriving to Nepal. “BRI is work in progress,” said Rong, “We feel there is room for communication. It a kind of learning by doing exercise, but it is not an effort to form an exclusively China-club.”

In her presentation, Zhu highlighted the opportunities and challenges faced by globalization. She mentioned how technology, artificial intelligence, automation, and innovation have affected job markets across the globe where many countries are less prepared to tackle these challenges.

Criticising the US for its protectionism against the ethos of globalisation Zhu said, “Super-globalization is coming, this is the next stage of globalisation and we have to prepare for it in a big way.”

Published: 21-11-2018 06:56

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