EVER since China rolled out its Belt and Road initiative, many countries have received billions of dollars towards infrastructure development to boost trade and investment along the old Silk Road that connects China and many other countries.
For the developing nations along the Silk Road, receiving huge sums of money has boosted economic growth as China aims to intensify linkages with countries.
President Xi Jinping’s Belt and Road initiative, which originally aimed at building economic connectivity with 64 countries via infrastructure investments along the old Silk Road and maritime routes, is making positive impact on many countries and Malaysia is a big beneficiary of that.
What is clear is the impact on investment in Malaysia. One of the largest investments inked has been through the East Coast Rail Link (ECRL).
The first phase of the ECRL will connect Wakaf Baru in Kelantan to ITT Gombak at a cost of RM46bil. The second phase will join the Integrated Transport Terminal Gombak to Port Klang, a distance of 88km, at a cost of RM9bil.
The rail connection between the west and east coasts of Peninsular Malaysia will be a catalyst to not only growth and businesses between the corridors but also create jobs and open up the hinterland of the peninsula to many more business opportunities.
The ECRL linking Port Klang and Kuantan Port will slash 30 hours of travel time for cargo shipping through the Port of Singapore but at a slightly higher cost.
At a recent forum, Universiti Malaya’s Institute of China Studies research fellow Dr Zhang Miao said that the ECRL could alter the traditional trade routes that go through Singapore, since China’s uncertain diplomatic relation with the island republic forces it to explore other alternatives.
China has invested over US$50bil (RM217bil) in countries along the Belt and Road between 2014 and 2016, with total trade exceeding US$3 trillion (RM13 trillion).
But the one big area in China’s investment has been in ports, and Malaysia has been a huge recipient of those investments.
It was reported that Chinese companies will be investing US$7.2bil in the Melaka Gateway, US$2.8bil in the Kuala Linggi Port, US$1.4bil in Penang Port and US$177mil in the Kuantan port projects.
The deep sea port in Melaka is reportedly targeted to be a liquid cargo terminal with storage facilities that will benefit oil trading in Asia, Europe and the Middle East.
There will also be a container terminal, break-bulk and dry bulk terminal, shipbuilding and repair services, maritime industrial park and port logistics services at the new port in Melaka.
The Kuala Linggi International Port is reportedly being built near Melaka to handle oil tankers with reports saying the port will target the bunkering business.