Should Cambodia be wary of China’s Belt and Road Initiative?

China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) has gained support from more than 70 countries around the world, who represent nearly 40 per cent of the world’s gross domestic product.

This suggests the great relevance of the BRI.

However, it has been criticised for creating a debt trap for some countries like Sri Lanka and Pakistan.

There is a concern, especially among Western scholars, that Cambodia could face a similar debt trap given that the influx of Chinese loans to Cambodia have not been effectively and transparently managed.

This article argues that Cambodia is still in the safe zone with regards to external debt management and that BRI provides more opportunities than risks to Cambodian economy and society.

Of course, there are some shortcomings that need to be addressed, particularly skills and technology transfers and the local community’s perception of and participation in BRI projects.

Cambodia is undoubtedly thirsty for building a strong physical infrastructure connectivity nationwide.

Such a connectivity will help to reduce the cost of transportation, and facilitate trade and tourist activities inside the country.

Indeed, investing in so-called physical infrastructure is not a totally new thing, for the Cambodian government has been doing it for years.

This can be evidenced by the government’s rectangular strategies in phases I, II, III and IV.

As a result, the Kingdom has enjoyed an unprecedented economic growth rate of seven per cent annually.

Simply put, investment in physical infrastructure is apparently the right option for the Kingdom so far.

Private investment in infrastruc-ture development in the Cambodian ports of Sihanoukville and Koh Kong may generate a significant amount of revenues.

Leng Thearith is Director of the Mekong Centre for Strategic Studies (MCSS), Asian Vision Institute (AVI).

Full article available at: https://m.phnompenhpost.com/opinion/should-cambodia-be-wary-chinas-belt-and-road-initiative