Interview: Belt and Road Initiative helps sustain growth momentum: Bangladeshi economist

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by Naim-Ul-Karim

DHAKA, Sept. 14 (Xinhua) — The idea of the Belt and Road Initiative is to bring people and cultures together on the back of cross-border business expansion and economic prosperity, said a leading Bangladeshi think-tank chief.

Zaidi Sattar, chairman of Policy Research Institute, told Xinhua in an interview that the Belt and Road Initiative is a novel initiative for the world with many positive spillovers in terms of trade, social and cultural integration for over 4 billion people.

Clearly, it is not just about investment in transportation infrastructure, said Sattar who joined the World Bank’s Dhaka Office in 1996 where he served as senior economist for South Asia Region, Poverty Reduction and Economic Management until his retirement in September 2007.

“The idea is to bring people and cultures together on the back of cross-border business expansion and economic prosperity,” said the economist.

Proposed by China in 2013, the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road Initiative aims to build trade and infrastructure networks connecting Asia with Europe and Africa along the ancient Silk Road routes.

Sattar said China is now a leading protagonist of open trade and free flow of investment across borders, at a time when some countries are reverting to the inward-looking and regressive protectionist trap that is bound to stifle global prosperity.

“Just when African and Asian economies were showing the potential to grow faster than any time in history, supplying the world with lower-priced consumer goods – from apparel to toys and electronics – the developed western world seems to be bent on closing their doors,” said Sattar.

The need for an alternative but vast sub-global market in East Asia, including China, Japan, Australia and New Zealand, is critical to promoting and sustaining the poverty-reducing and employment generating growth that economies like Bangladesh, Vietnam, and Indonesia, among others, have been experiencing, he said.

China has demonstrated that it has the will and financial wherewithal to promote this momentum of economic prosperity in this part of Asia, said Sattar.

At a time when western developed economies are constrained by burgeoning public debt, China has investible resources needed for supporting mega infrastructure projects in South Asia, he said.

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