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China keeps world in dark over BRI projects

The China Pakistan Economic Corridor, a pillar of the Belt and Road Initiative (Photo credit-IANS)

The spotlight on China’s ambitious Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), which has not published any official data on lending or the contours of the projects, is only increasing with the rising global economic uncertainty.

The Swadeshi Jagran Manch in a report has pointed out that despite much fanfare, the BRI is yet not very well defined and there is no official list on the number of projects that it has in its periphery.

“Therefore, it is difficult to distinguish projects which come under BRI and other projects which China is undertaking, to exhibit its presence in the world,” it said.

The report highlighted that the Chinese government is directly working on a number of projects and many are being executed through its companies.

“All these projects are not part of BRI, but there is a complete lack of clarity about what is included in BRI and what is not,” it said.

BRI projects are being funded in multiple ways. While for several projects, the Chinese government is lending at subsidized rates for others commercial rates are being charged. Besides, the Chinese government may invest itself through China Development Bank or even other Chinese financial institutions. Apart from this, funding is also being done through public-private partnership -jointly by Chinese companies of or companies of other countries' or a mix of both.

China driven Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) and New Development Bank (NDB) have also extended loans to India on a large scale for projects which are not part of the BRI exercise.

“So if we look at the financing of these institutions, then we cannot predict how big the size of BRI is. Therefore, in the absence of a list of BRI projects, it is not possible to trace the coverage and size of BRI,” it noted.

For China, the BRI projects have yielded little financial returns especially with the brutal economic impact that the Covid 19 pandemic and now the Russia-Ukraine war have left on countries. Sri Lanka, which has been one of the main recipients of Chinese lending, has declared itself bankrupt. Its Hambantota Port has been leased out to the Chinese for 99 years.

Bangladesh Finance Minister AHM Mustafa Kamal has now come out openly warning countries to be watchful of Chinese loans which are directed through the BRI umbrella.

“Everyone blames China. China cannot disagree. It’s their responsibility,” the New York Daily Paper quoted Bangladesh Finance Minister AHM Mustafa Kamal as saying. The minister also added that China too on its part must do a thorough analysis of the project for which it is lending.

Also read: With Sri Lanka in mind Bangladesh minister warns against China's BRI lending

Nepal's foreign minister to seek deals outside BRI during China talks next week