Nepal | August 12, 2020

China’s OBOR: Pain or gain?

Atindra Dahal
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At present, projects like Kathmandu Ring Road, BICC hall, and many programmes on education, health and other social welfare sectors are being funded by China. China always expects each project to ooze benefits for Nepal. There may be some seen and unseen treasures with OBOR too

Karnali region, Karnali Zone, poverty,

Illustration: Ratna Sagar Shrestha/THT

Famous Indian author Shiva Khera opines that humans naturally imagine then strive for prosperity.

In failing to achieve expected success often they shift imagination over children. Our nation’s economic situation metaphorically seems the same.

We have plenty of possibilities for ‘organic economic-development’. Various multi-dimensional prospects on hydro, tourism, agro and other sorts of industries are rife. Nonetheless, we consistently expect either India or remittance or China for economic prosperity.

In recent times, China’s One Belt One Road (OBOR) policy is heavily influencing the discourse. Some extremists brag that OBOR impacts Nepal for complete good or bad.

Before making polar arguments either to accuse or to admit it, pros and cons of OBOR should be minutely observed. Economic development is the first and foremost destiny of every nation; and so is it for China. China emerged as a super economic power by 2002 then influenced the world.

Following the global financial fluctuation of 2008, China extensively supplied cheaper goods around the world and marked exceptionally exponential economic growth. Nonetheless, for the last few years, China’s growth is declining.

It has scaled down from 13% of the past decades to an average of 7% for the last several years. OBOR is an ambitious plan that China has brought forth to recover the growth and regain its height.

History highlights that China traded with India, Arab, Greece and Rome too around 130 BC, during the regime of the Han dynasty. The road is called Silk Road at the present. Even in modern age, China made aggressive growth in international business after the 1990s.

China Business Review reads that the external investment of China has gone 500 times higher now though it was only 100 billion dollars in 2000. International and multilateral trades are major issues of such efforts.

Institutions of Chinese initiation like Asian Infrastructure Development Bank and ADB, which was called BRICS earlier, are for the same purpose. But modern commerce counts multifold efficiency and competitive advantages on waterways, thus merging the ancient roadways and modern waterways, and China proposes an integrated roadmap OBOR for international trade.

President XI declared it during visits to Kazakhstan and Indonesia in 2013; and subsequently the communist party approved it. Then after, China has a busy schedule to discuss it among 70 countries falling in this region and 30 more nations have already agreed and New Zealand was the first one.

Under this project, about 1 trillion dollars’ infrastructure development has started. Railways from Beijing to Duisburg of Germany is an example. Up to 2016, China has established financial cooperatives in 52 various stations of different countries.

For it, China has paid 9 billion dollars tax to the respective countries’ governments, generated employment for 70,000 people and signed 4000 engineering projects. Such projects aim at extending safe, secure and sound business volume especially in Europe and Africa.

Each country has the right to devise sound strategic plans to expand trade for consistent economic progress and OBOR is the same show of China. But Nepal has to duly analyze the pros and cons.

China wants Nepal to prosper. Even in a recently organized investment conference, China avowed the large commitment of 800 billion dollars. At present too, projects like Kathmandu ring road, BICC hall, and many programmes on education, health and other social welfare sectors are being funded by China.

China always expects each project to ooze benefits for Nepal. There may be some seen and unseen treasures with OBOR too.

Still only road extension brings no outcome. Which parts of the nations fall in OBOR? In case the road connects us, do we only engage in counting lorries and containers or do we dare to export our goods too? China expects to invest 50 billion dollars in each country of this region to enhance the infrastructure. Can we upgrade that level of infrastructure if China spends?

Do we have human resources to initiate and accomplish it? How can this plan assist us to change our international business from deficit to a balanced and a profitable position?

Can our banks handle fret clearance and tax collections on stations located inside our country of this route? How can we attract the plan to favour us? Won’t there be external control on our resources too? Many people reel with nasty life covered with dust and suffer with pollution of horns even close to big blacktopped highways.

As this might make other nations’ goods easy and cheap, won’t we be more dependent and won’t our production cease? A seriously study is a must. Provided it heralds expected sound success in our favour too, let’s not delay again. But in case it causes no change or if we can’t really manage the change it causes then again there will be a flow of foreigners to manage it.

Won’t we be pushed to penury then? Poverty unaddressed is a challenge now; won’t prosperity be unmanaged and another bad luck then? Let’s not go in a hurry, but let’s not delay if possibilities are there.

Dahal is Associate Professor, Kathmandu School of Law

A version of this article appears in print on May 10, 2017 of The Himalayan Times.

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