PETALING JAYA: Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad has endorsed the Belt and Road initiative by China, saying everyone would benefit from the ease of travel and communication that it would bring about.
He said this in his speech at the Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation in Beijing on Friday (April 26).
"Today, trade drives the world. It is only natural that the land and sea passages have to be better developed.
"The Silk Road, the land passage between East and West, has not received much attention. Yet it must be obvious that with modern technologies, the passage can be improved.
"Without doubt, the utilisation of these passages will enrich all the littoral states along the way, as much as the great nations of the East and West," said Dr Mahathir..
According to the Prime Minister, just as the massive trade by ships helped spawn the development of huge bulk carriers, the land passage should also respond to the need from the increased trade between East and West.
He suggested that bigger trains be built towards this end.
"Although trains can now connect China with Eastern Europe, current trains are not designed for the increases in goods and people needing to travel along this passageway.
If ships can be built bigger, why can't trains be equally big to carry more goods and raw materials and people?
"Have we reached the limit in terms of the size and length of trains? I think not," he added.
The Prime Minister said the world had the technology and money to bring about such improvements.
He said freedom of passage along these routes, which pass through many countries via both sea and land, was important and warned against bureaucratic hassles slowing down the speed of travel.
"It is essential therefore for these passages to be free and open to all," said Dr Mahathir.
He added that the passages must be made safe as terrorism and wars would render the modern marvels that enabled the Belt and Road incapable of delivering the benefits they promised.
"Yes, the Belt and Road idea is great.
"It can bring the landlocked countries of Central Asia closer to the sea. They can grow in wealth and their poverty reduced.
"As the sea routes and land routes improve, trade and travel will grow, and with this, the wealth of the world will increase for the betterment of everyone.
"Everyone will benefit from the ease of travel and communication that the development of the Belt and Road project will bring.
"I am fully in support of the Belt and Road initiative. I am sure my country, Malaysia, will benefit from the project," said Dr Mahathir.
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