Belt and Road Initiative set to bring opportunities, but comes with risks

PHNOM PENH (The Phnom Penh Post/ANN) – The China-backed Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) project could offer good opportunities for Cambodia to achieve its development goal, but comes with risks.

The kingdom must carefully study the two-sided story of the project, experts said on Tuesday in a dialogue hosted by the UN.

Talking at the dialogue on the BRI and Cambodia’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, University of Michigan Associate Professor Yuen Yuen Ang said involved parties are encouraged to talk and study the BRI in detail as the project will bring opportunities, but also problems.

“We hear a lot about the [BRI] contribution, but it will be also really great to hear about what is the problem that BRI has brought about,” she said.

Ang said, “There are critical public services and infrastructures that need to be built … but the infrastructure needed by the local residents are not being provided,” she said.

“In this particular situation, there is a very clear gap in infrastructure provided that is not beneficial versus infrastructure that is needed but not being provided.”

The United Nations (UN) in Cambodia has embarked on a research initiative to establish why and how both the BRI and the 2030 agenda for sustainable development are critical for realising Cambodia’s vision to become an upper-middle income country by 2030.

The research highlights that Cambodia’s economic success is closely linked to the performance of other economies in the region. The BRI provides several opportunities to sustain economic growth.

Supreme National Economic Council senior adviser Mey Kalyan said on Tuesday that having the BRI in place is important and whether the impact is negative or positive, it is incumbent on the Kingdom itself to react. “It is not one [hand], but two [hands] have to go together in order to applaud,” he said.

“Whether China offers opportunity or connectivity depends on our response.”

Deputy Director at the Ministry of Economy and Finance’s General Department of Budget Ung Luyna said there is a lot of common ground that Cambodia can take advantage of in the BRI project for Cambodia’s 2030 Agenda’s vision.

However, he said the Kingdom has a lot of work needed to be done to see maximum benefits from the project.