ISLAMABAD - Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi Wednesday said the Belt and Road Initiative would create connectivity, create linkages and boost economic growth of countries part of the project.

He was speaking at a panel discussion on “The Belt and Road Impact”; part of the 48th World Economic Forum being held at Davos Switzerland. The Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) is envisioned to enhance connectivity across continents through infrastructure investment, cultural exchange and technological know-how transfer.

Prime Minister Abbasi who is on a two-day visit to attend the Forum on the invitation of its President Professor Klaus Schwab said Pakistan recognizes the initiative of President Xi Jinping of China who, through his vision, has created global connectivity for tomorrow. He said the initiative touches the lives of half of the humanity and would have a far reaching impact across the continents.

Pakistan is one of the 80 countries through which the BRI passes or would have an impact. Pakistan terms it China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).

BRI passes through countries that generate 40 percent of global GDP and account for 60 percent of the world population. Spanning four continents, the New Silk Road is being deemed as the largest infrastructure project in history and, besides enhancing connectivity, would encourage better exchange of cultural knowledge and technological know-how.

The other panelists in the discussion on the sidelines of the Forum included Jin Liqun, President Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), Li Xin, Managing Director Caixin Global, Kirill Dmitriev, Chief Executive Officer Russian Direct Investment Fund, Ren Hongbin, Chairman China National Machinery Industry Corp (Sinomach), Chan Chun Sing Minister of Singapore, and Michael S Burke Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, AECOM.

The panelists explored implications for regional collaboration and the expansion of clean infrastructure. They offered their perspective on what the project would offer the world and spoke on the implications for regional collaboration and the expansion of clean infrastructure.

Prime Minister Abbasi said the BRI would create greater openness and create linkages among the countries and the people. He said the impact of the Belt and Road Initiative was already being felt by Pakistan as new power project were coming up, the country’s railway sector was being upgraded, along with new motorways, road structures, besides other infrastructure. Abbasi pointed that the country’s cement industry was adding 56 per cent capacity, while the exports had increased by 15 per cent.

He said the BRI had boosted investor’s confidence and the impact of the project was far greater and far reaching than the mere infrastructure on the ground.

Abbasi said the BRI had the requisite financial sustainability and would also have a positive impact on the environment. This, he said, was possible despite the fact that Pakistan was putting to work several coal-fired power projects. He expressed the belief that the efficiency gains were far more than the impact these would have on the environment.

The prime minister, while agreeing with the views of President Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, said the governments must keep their guard against creating ‘white elephants’ and ensure optimum use of resources to create projects that were financially sustainable.

He said Pakistan, through the construction of its roads, rails and port, was providing connectivity to the Central Asian Republics. He expressed the belief that complementarities would create much greater sustainability for the project.

Abbasi said the Belt and Road Initiative was perfectly in sync with the 2018 World Economic Forum meeting and looking forward to a shared future, particularly among the participating countries.

The prime minister stressed the need for ensuring that any projects under the BRI do not create any distortions. He said despite the bilateral constraints, a level playing field was needed to be provided for all investors, particularly the local ones, so as to achieve optimal benefits.

The other speakers were enthusiastic about the project which they believed would be of far-reaching impact, particularly as most of the countries were less developed and would greatly benefit from economic activity that would be generated by it.

They were of the view that the project would also help bridge the technological gap between the participating countries and would be sustainable. It was pointed that though there were a number of challenges involved, the positive aspect was that the participating states were willing to resolve the issues and work together by sharing best practices. The participants also called for greater connectivity and interdependencies for enhanced benefits.

The President Asian Bank said the project needed to be seen as one that was generating global good for the people in general and would benefit a globalised world. He said it would also mitigate the concerns by sharing the benefits.

 When asked by the moderator to sum up the importance of the project and to win trust and confidence in one word, Abbasi said the BRI should create ‘Jobs’ while the other speakers called for continued broad-based consultation, common connectivity, sustainable social lessons, global collaboration and signature projects.