Racing to a new prosperity

Updated: 2014-06-04 06:50

By Emanuel John (China Daily)

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 Racing to a new prosperity

Spectators in Myanmar cheer participants in last year's BCIM Car Rally, in which competitors raced from India to China via Bangladesh and Myanmar. One of the key objectives of the event was to raise awareness of a proposed modern-day trade route based on the ancient southern Silk Road. Provided to China Daily

Game changer

The planners hope the corridor will turn out to be a game changer in the regional economy that will improve the lives of millions of people.

Racing to a new prosperity

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At a distance of around 1,500 km, Kolkata is geographically closer to Kunming than to the Indian capital, New Delhi. It therefore makes perfect sense for road access to be improved to help facilitate trade between the two giants.

The corridor is an ambitious project. Several rounds of high-level discussions have already taken place to take the proposal forward, and a timetable has been set. Although China has been the main proponent of the road, the other countries are all keen to engage.

The main questions for the planners, however, are whether the project is feasible and the key benefits each of the four countries will enjoy if it goes ahead.

Developing the corridor will require linking a number of existing highways, such as the Chinese-built north-south highway in Myanmar, and the Indian-built Kalemyo-Tamu Road, which runs from Kalemyo in northern Myanmar to Moreh in India, just over the border from the town of Tamu in Myanmar. An international highway already runs from Dhaka in Bangladesh to Kolkata.

In theory, all that's required is the construction of new highways to link the existing roads.

"There's a long way to go, and a lot of things, including security concerns, are still to be sorted out. But as things are panning out, there is hope," said Jeff Xu, a partner at the financial services firm Deloitte in Shanghai.

Given predictions that China and India will be the world's leading economies by 2050, and with Bangladesh and Myanmar emerging rapidly, the construction of the corridor makes sense, he added.

Political leaders and entrepreneurs are enthusiastic about the project because they believe that a new highway will fuel trade in the region and create a large number of jobs.

"This is quite important for all four countries, where unemployment is a concern," said Syed Abdus Samad, executive chairman of the Board of Investment in Bangladesh. "Moreover, the BCIM region is a market of 2.8 billion people, and had GDP of $9.3 trillion in 2011, so it's a huge opportunity. The proposed BCIM Economic Corridor would greatly reinforce the existing connectivity initiatives taken by the two Asian giants."

For Biswajit Sengupta, head of financial markets at Standard Chartered Bank, the proposed route would go a long way to easing New Delhi's concerns about the yawning imbalance, in China's favor, in bilateral trade.

Racing to a new prosperity

Racing to a new prosperity

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