The World Bank supports the Belt and Road Initiative and will work with countries to leverage the initiative’s full benefits, Jim Yong Kim, president of the 189-member global body, said on Oct 12 in Washington.
“I think two things that the world needs very much right now are strong leadership and an embrace of multilateral approaches to solving difficult problems, and the BRI is both of those things,” Kim told a discussion that is part of the ongoing annual meetings of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank.
During the annual meetings, an array of leaders expressed strong support and optimism for the Belt and Road Initiative, launched by President Xi Jinping in 2013 and described as the largest infrastructure project in history, the World Bank said in a release late on Oct 12.
“President Xi took the leadership to use his convening power to bring the countries and multilateral development banks together. That’s great, and I think more and more countries will join over time,” Kim told the Belt and Road Initiative: Building Bonds Across Asia, Europe and Beyond panel discussion.
The Belt and Road Initiative aims to build a trade and infrastructure network connecting Asia with Europe and Africa along and beyond the ancient Silk Road trade routes.
Kim said: “What we built after 1945 was the multilateral system. The 1945 world order has prevented so many terrible things from happening, and any time that you have a chance to embrace it and to lead the world toward even more integration, you should grab it.
“That’s what China has done, and that’s why we support this initiative. Every six months we’re going to get together; every six months, we report back to the entire world the progress that we’re making.”
Embracing integration and multilateral approaches will “have a huge impact on ending poverty and boosting shared prosperity”, Kim said.
The World Bank Group is one of six international financial institutions that signed an agreement in May 2017 to collaborate on the initiative.
“The trick for us is going to be to work with every single country as part of the Belt and Road Initiative to make sure that they can take the greatest advantages,” he said.
He called for countries to step up reforms so as to take full advantage of the opportunities presented by the initiative.
Kim also said the World Bank is working well together with the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank. They are not competitors, Kim said, because “with all the banks combined, there’s still not anywhere near enough financing for infrastructure development” in the world.
Jin Liqun, president of the AIIB, said the clear message from the Chinese government is that once the Belt and Road Initiative takes off, it’s up to everybody to work together.
“In China we have a saying, ‘When everybody chips in putting in the firewood, flames go much higher.’ But I would like to say when multilateral development banks work together, I would like to have the World Bank to take the lead,” Jin said, turning to Kim: “If you’re short of money, we all chip in.”
Every panelist laughed.
Jin also said that when it comes to investment, the AIIB has very high environmental and social standards, operating strictly as a “lean, clean and green” organization.
Vice-Minister of Finance Shi Yaobin, another panelist, also said that while the initiative originated in China, the Belt and Road Initiative will benefit the entire world. International cooperation is both key to its success and a long-term benefit of implementation.
Indonesia’s Minister of Finance Sri Mulyani Indrawati said connectivity and cooperation are becoming valuable today with the sentiment of many countries “becoming more inward-looking”. She expressed optimism that the initiative would bring economic growth to Indonesia.
Kazakhstan’s Deputy Prime Minister Erbolat Dossaev described the Belt and Road Initiative as a major opportunity for his landlocked country, bringing new infrastructure and social development, and helping to diversify the economy and alleviate poverty.