Nepal lat­est to join new Silk Road project

New Straits Times - - Business / World -

KATHMANDU: Nepal yes­ter­day signed up to China’s new Silk Road drive, a mas­sive in­fra­struc­ture project span­ning some 65 coun­tries at the cen­tre of the Asian gi­ant’s push to ex­pand its global in­flu­ence.

The long-dis­cussed deal be­tween im­pov­er­ished Nepal and its much big­ger neigh­bour comes just days be­fore China hosts a sum­mit for 28 lead­ers near Bei­jing, show­cas­ing the am­bi­tious plan.

The One Belt, One Road Ini­tia­tive (Obor) spear­headed by Pres­i­dent Xi Jin­ping would see 60 per cent of the global pop­u­la­tion and around a third of global gross do­mes­tic prod­uct linked through a net­work of Chi­nese-bankrolled ports, rail­ways, roads and in­dus­trial parks.

The deal will see China plough money into Nepal for a se­ries of projects, in­clud­ing boost­ing its road net­work, power grid and a new rail­way con­nect­ing the cap­i­tal with Lhasa in Ti­bet.

An­a­lysts have ex­pressed con­cern over the Asian gi­ant’s at­tempt to take a lead in global com­merce.

Fitch Rat­ings said po­lit­i­cal mo­ti­va­tions might trump “gen­uine in­fra­struc­ture needs and com­mer­cial logic”, lead­ing to “a height­ened risk of projects prov­ing un­prof­itable”.

Strug­gling coun­tries could be sad­dled with Chi­nese loans re­quir­ing pay­ment re­gard­less of project per­for­mance, said Fitch Rat­ings.

China’s Am­bas­sador to Nepal Yu Hong ap­peared aware of such crit­i­cism and de­scribed the plan as a “sym­phony per­formed by an orches­tra” not China’s “solo show” in a speech. AFP

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