PHNOM PENH, July 13 (Xinhua) -- The China-proposed Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) has been playing a crucial role in supporting the economic development in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) region, experts said on Wednesday.
ASEAN groups Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.
Hoe Ee Khor, chief economist of the ASEAN+3 Macroeconomic Research Office (AMRO), said ASEAN countries including Cambodia are a big part of the BRI.
"Furthermore, much of the foundation for the progress of, as well as the benefit to ASEAN, lies in the prospect of a deeper ASEAN-China integration," he wrote to Xinhua in an e-mail.
"Certainly, the BRI plays an important role in supporting the economic development in ASEAN, particularly in the area of improved trade connectedness and market access, and facilitating further regional integration," he said.
"Through helping to fill the infrastructure investment gap in the region, the BRI is also expected to have second-order positive impact through crowding in private investment, such as in Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, the Philippines and Indonesia," Khor added.
Vasim Sorya, undersecretary of state and spokesperson for Cambodia's Ministry of Public Works and Transport, said mega-BRI projects in Cambodia including the Sihanoukville Special Economic Zone, hydropower plants, Phnom Penh-Sihanoukville Expressway, new Siem Reap International Airport, Morodok Techo National Stadium, roads and bridges, are very beneficial to the country's socio-economic development.
"These projects have provided and will continue to provide a lot of tangible benefits to the economy and people of Cambodia," he told Xinhua. "The BRI projects here are sincere without any strings attached, and their aim is to help boost our socio-economic development and improve our people's livelihoods."
Despite the impact of COVID-19, all BRI projects in the kingdom have made headway steadily, Sorya said.
Neak Chandarith, director of the Cambodia 21st Century Maritime Silk Road Research Center, said the BRI projects will be a contributor to the economic growth in Cambodia and in the region during the post-pandemic era.
"I believe that the BRI projects here will help Cambodia achieve its ambitious goal of becoming an upper-middle-income country by 2030 and a high-income country in 2050," he told Xinhua.
Joseph Matthews, a senior professor at the BELTEI International University in Phnom Penh, said the BRI has provided a lot of tangible benefits to Cambodia, ASEAN and the world during the COVID-19 pandemic.
"The BRI has played a very important role in helping countries cushion the economic fallout of the pandemic," he said. "It remains as a driving force to continue expanding cooperation among countries in the region and the world at large for the cause of peace, security, prosperity and sustainable development."
Other Southeast Asian nations such as Laos, Thailand, Indonesia, and Malaysia, have also greatly benefited from the BRI, Matthews said.
He added that the China-Laos Railway project, which connects Kunming in China's southwestern Yunnan Province to Lao capital Vientiane, is a boon not only for both countries, but also for other Southeast Asian nations. ■