Rafidah advises countries to do stress test for BRI projects

Tan Sri Rafidah Aziz said the stress test could help the country to have a better assessment on the viability of the project.

KUALA LUMPUR: The government of participating countries that have interest in China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) projects need to undertake the necessary economic and financial stress test before implementing it.

In making the call, AirAsia X Bhd Chairman Tan Sri Rafidah Aziz said the stress test could help the country to have a better assessment on the viability of the project and avoid problems such as overpricing especially when it involves financing packages attached to the project.

"This is to evaluate the long-term debt sustainability, which involves hundreds of millions and for some country, that could have a big fractured to the total gross domestic product.

"The government must view the project(s) from not only the socio-economic perspective but (also) do that without politically tinted lenses...a wrong way to do a project," she said in her keynote address at the 3rd Belt and Road Public Forum here on Thursday.

Rafidah, who was the country’s former international trade and industry minister said, all BRI projects considered for implementation must be anchored on domestic-needs, optimal economic benefits, employment opportunities which in turn would contribute to the country's long-term socio and economic development.

She said the country should not simply jump into the BRI bandwagon without taking into account the local conditions, to prevent destructiveness on the local market.

"We want a project that has a legacy of positiveness and it can only be done if right up front, this confidence is put into place.

"This the socio-economic consideration and not purely bottom line," she urged. 

Popularly dubbed as Malaysia's "Iron Lady”, she also pointed out that the BRI project might have short term result but its long-term liability must be taken into consideration too, as there is no guarantee the same government will be in place as it could be changed through an election. 

The implementation of BRI projects according to her, must be transparent with strict adherence to universally acceptable governance and business ethics, terms and conditions.

She explained, the project should not be a stand-alone initiative as it must be integrated into the overall economic blueprints of the nation, for it to be relevant and accepted by the people with its results in tandem with the initially targeted benefits.

Rafidah also questioned why air transport are left out from such a big infrastructure initiative, believing the maritime and land transportation mode are not enough to boost greater connectivity.

She said all three modes of transportation must have complementarity which would be more beneficial for the world’s physical connectivity and efforts to reduce the travelling time.

"The shortest is by air. How fast a ship and train can go? But how fast a plane can go?

"How you can miss out one of the important connectivity vehicles and (at the same time) you are (talking about) boosting trade?

"Nobody ever talks about air connectivity, in fact eventually 20 years down the line, you feel that is the most important connectivity with more low-cost air travel," she elaborated.

The World Bank Group estimated the BRI transport project if completed, could reduce travelling time along the economic corridors by 12 per cent, increasing trade between 2.7 per cent and 9.7 per cent, increasing income by up to 3.4 per cent and lift out 7.6 million people from extreme poverty.

"If we can include air connectivity, I'm sure we can see a substantial difference in the numbers," added Rafidah.

The one-day forum was organised by the Confucius Institute at SEGi University. Also present was Yu Jun, political affairs counsellor of China in Malaysia. - Bernama


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Rafidah Aziz , stress test , viability , project


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