A decade-old China-proposed Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) has given strong momentum to Cambodia’s socioeconomic development and poverty reduction, experts said on Saturday.
Neak Chandarith, director of the Cambodia 21st Century Maritime Silk Road Research Center, said BRI’s landmark projects such as the Sihanoukville Special Economy Zone, the Phnom Penh-Sihanoukville Expressway, the Siem Reap Angkor International Airport, and hydropower plants have greatly contributed to boosting the kingdom’s economy, trade, investment and tourism.
“The BRI is not just a framework for infrastructure development. It’s a catalyst for economic progress and prosperity, not only in Cambodia but also in the region and the world,” he told Xinhua.
Chandarith said these landmark infrastructure projects represented a monumental leap forward for the Southeast Asian country.
“With a network of roads, bridges, and upgraded railways spanning thousands of kilometers, the country is becoming better connected internally and with its neighboring nations,” the expert said.
He added that these developments have not only improved the country’s transportation network but also spurred trade and increased foreign investment.
“Cambodia is becoming a more attractive destination for businesses and investors, and these developments have the potential to drive economic growth and create jobs, and improved the quality of life for millions of Cambodian people,” Chandarith said.
He said the BRI, along with the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership agreement and the Cambodia-China free trade agreement, will help Cambodia achieve its ambitious goals of becoming an upper middle-income country by 2030 and a high-income country by 2050.
Thourn Sinan, chairman of the Pacific Asia Travel Association Cambodia chapter, said the recently-launched Siem Reap Angkor International Airport, one of the BRI’s landmark projects, has become a major international gateway to the UNESCO-listed Angkor Archaeological Park, which is the kingdom’s most popular tourist destination.
“The Siem Reap Angkor International Airport is a key example of the successful cooperation between Cambodia and China under the BRI,” he told Xinhua. “The 4E-level international airport is expected to boost tourism, trade, and investment in the region.”
He said that the BRI has provided mutual benefits and win-win results and that under the initiative, Cambodia has received significant investment and assistance from China.
The BRI, a reference to the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road, was initiated by China in 2013 to build trade and infrastructure networks connecting Asia with Europe, Africa and beyond via the ancient Silk Road trade routes.
Seun Sam, a policy analyst at the Royal Academy of Cambodia, said BRI projects are transforming Cambodia into a key hub for trade and connectivity in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.
“Cambodia is one of the countries that have seen the greatest impact of the BRI on infrastructure, trade, economy and cultural landscape,” he told Xinhua. “China’s investments in Cambodia have catalyzed a significant transformation of its infrastructure.”
Sam added that China’s investment in energy infrastructure has helped reduce Cambodia’s power shortages and foster its sustainable development.
“The construction of hydropower plants, solar panel farms and power transmission networks has increased the country’s green energy production capacity and alleviated its dependence on costly imported energy sources,” he said.
“All in all, the BRI has provided tremendous benefits to Cambodia, injecting vigorous impetus into building a high-quality, high-level and high-standard Cambodia-China community with a shared future,” he added.