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Together, let us forge ahead

By KAIRAT KELIMBETOV | China Daily Global | Updated: 2023-09-18 07:55
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The development of physical, digital and financial connectivity will unlock the transformative power of the BRI, driving positive change for the Global South


The pandemic, lockdowns and geopolitical crises have posed unprecedented challenges. In fact, it is during such testing times that we must come together and promote partnership and connectivity.

As we delve deeper into the development of the Belt and Road Initiative, it is crucial to emphasize the profound impact it has on sustainable development, the strengthening of trade and economic ties, and the promotion of well-being and improved living conditions for the developing and underdeveloped countries of the Global South. There are more people living in developing and underdeveloped countries than in the high-income economies, and large multilateral cooperation initiatives must help connect developing countries among themselves and connect them to the developed world.

The Belt and Road Initiative serves as a catalyst for fostering bilateral and multilateral cooperation, benefiting countries across the Global South. It presents an invaluable opportunity to uplift millions of people, improve their well-being and enhance living conditions through sustained economic growth and development.

Trade and economic ties are at the core of the Belt and Road Initiative's objectives. By promoting connectivity and reducing trade barriers, the initiative enhances the flow of goods, services and investments between participating countries. This opens up new markets, diversifies export opportunities and stimulates economic activity. By strengthening trade links at the bilateral and multilateral levels, the initiative helps build resilient economies and reduce dependence on traditional markets.

Furthermore, the initiative provides a framework for inclusive and sustainable development, ensuring that the benefits of economic growth reach all segments of society. It prioritizes poverty reduction, job creation and inclusive economic opportunities, particularly for marginalized communities and regions.

The initiative's focus on sustainable development is vital for addressing social, economic and environmental challenges. It encourages the adoption of green technologies, renewable energy and eco-friendly infrastructure. By integrating sustainability into project planning and implementation, the initiative supports the United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals and contributes to global efforts to combat climate change and preserve natural resources.

Moreover, the Belt and Road Initiative will foster collaboration among nations beyond markets, in areas such as education, healthcare and cultural exchange. This creates a foundation for long-term relationships built on trust and respect, fostering a sense of shared responsibility for the development of the Global South.

Kazakhstan, with its strategic location at the crossroads of Europe and Asia, has been a key partner in advancing the goals of the initiative. The government of Kazakhstan, under the leadership of President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, has consistently demonstrated a strong commitment to fostering cooperation and progress under the framework of the initiative. This is proved by the recent visit of President Tokayev to China and the ongoing official partnership. The Kazakh government's measures to strengthen partnerships, create an enabling business environment and promote investment have laid the foundation for fruitful collaboration within the framework of the initiative.

The Astana International Financial Centre, Kazakhstan's regional financial services hub, which demonstrates how Kazakhstan's wholehearted engagement in this initiative, has paved the way for enhanced connectivity and economic integration across the region.

Kazakhstan's geographic location and extensive infrastructure networks provide critical linkages for the smooth flow of goods and services. The country's commitment to developing modern transportation infrastructure, including roads, railways and logistics hubs, has significantly contributed to enhancing trade connectivity between Europe and Asia.

Furthermore, Kazakhstan's willingness to strengthen the digital integration and development of e-commerce platforms has facilitated the growth of digital trade and enabled businesses to tap into new markets. The country's focus on fostering innovation and technological advancement aligns with the digital transformation objectives of the Belt and Road Initiative.

We must recognize that the initiative encompasses far more than physical infrastructure alone.

Yes, the development of robust physical infrastructure is essential. This entails building a comprehensive network of transportation and logistics hubs, modernizing existing facilities, and ensuring seamless connectivity across regions. By enhancing transport connectivity, countries can unlock new trade opportunities, boost economic growth and promote regional integration.

The Belt and Road Initiative can also embrace the digital revolution, fostering the development of high-speed internet connectivity, data centers and e-commerce platforms, to enable the efficient flow of information, drive innovation and empower businesses, particularly small and medium-sized enterprises, to tap into new markets and opportunities.

However, physical and digital connectivity are not enough on their own. The development of sound financial markets is crucial to ensuring the sustained growth and efficiency of the Belt and Road Initiative. Robust financial connectivity encompasses both public and private sectors, bridging gaps in funding, facilitating cross-border transactions, and mitigating risks associated with project financing. It requires the establishment of well-regulated financial markets, currency swap arrangements, and access to diversified funding sources to support large-scale infrastructure projects.

China's financial institutions, such as the China International Capital Corporation, play a vital role in supporting the development of the Belt and Road Initiative. They foster investment, provide advisory services and facilitate cross-border capital flows. Their engagement creates an environment conducive to sustainable economic growth, job creation and technological advancement.

The success of the Belt and Road Initiative lies not only in the involvement of major players but also in the active participation of local and regional champions. Governments, policymakers and business communities in each country involved in the initiative must collaborate to create an enabling environment for investment and entrepreneurship. This entails developing favorable investment climates, streamlining regulatory processes and ensuring the protection of intellectual property rights.

Kazakhstan is making efforts to develop the Middle Corridor that connects China, through Kazakhstan, to the Caspian Sea, then the South Caucasus and, finally, to the Black Sea ports in Georgia and Mediterranean Sea ports in Turkiye. It is a viable land-and-sea belt that connects reliable partners that are willing to contribute to the initiative's development in times of economic distress.

Public and private entities are working on the improved infrastructure and bringing in international stakeholders from, for example, the Gulf Cooperation Council region. Today the Middle Corridor can become one of the most important arteries for the initiative and hopefully there will be more participants.

By embracing the development of physical, digital, and financial connectivity, we can truly unlock the transformative power of the initiative and drive positive changes for the people of the Global South. Together, let us forge ahead with determination, unity and a shared commitment to sustainable development.

The author is former deputy prime minister of the Republic of Kazakhstan, former governor of the National Bank of Kazakhstan, former governor of Astana International Financial Centre and strategic advisor of Freedom Horizons. The author contributed this article to China Watch, a think tank powered by China Daily.

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