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Vietnam draws US$1.6 billion from China’s Belt and Road Initiative in Jan-Jun
Ngoc Thuy 09:42, 2019/08/19
Vietnam, along with Singapore and Indonesia, has been named as the top countries where organizations see Belt and Road Initiative opportunities, according to PricewaterhouseCoppers.
In the first half of 2019, Vietnam drew US$1.6 billion from investments related to China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), ranking fourth among Southeast Asian countries, according to a report from Maybank Kim Eng’s research arm. 

Chinese BRI investment and construction contracts in the Southeast Asian region almost doubled to US$11 billion in the first half of 2019, from US$5.6 billion in the last six months of the previous year, Nikkei Asian Review reported, citing the report. 

Among countries in the region, Indonesia drew the lion's share of new BRI contracts, valued at US$3 billion in the first half. It was followed by Cambodia at US$2.5 billion, Singapore at US$1.9 billion and Vietnam at US$1.6 billion. Most of the projects were in transport and energy, the report notes.

These numbers reflect thriving interest in BRI participation in the region, also captured in the other report by PwC and the Singapore Business Federation, which represents more than 25,000 companies' interests in the city-state.

Their report, released at a mid-August conference in Singapore on infrastructure development, named Vietnam, Singapore and Indonesia as the top countries where organizations see BRI opportunities.

The report cites a survey of about 50 public- and private-sector leaders in the region -- from industries like financial services, energy and construction -- which found that 66% of respondents identified Vietnam as a place with BRI opportunities, followed by Singapore and Indonesia at 57%. Countries like Bangladesh and Sri Lanka drew less interest at 30%, while Pakistan was near the bottom at 18%.

Three-quarters of those polled cited political risk as a top concern associated with BRI projects -- a sentiment echoed by private-sector representatives who spoke at the Singapore conference.

"Infrastructure projects are long term," Boon Chin Hau, managing director of Singapore sovereign wealth fund GIC, was quoted by Nikkei as saying during a panel discussion on inbound investment. "They are there to serve the country, the people. They have social needs and therefore they are very long term. So having very stable government is quite critical to create an environment for private investors to come in."

The China-led Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank has lauded the role that the Association of Southeast Asian Nations has played in realizing development opportunities. At the conference, AIIB President Jin Liqun noted that while progress varies within the bloc, ASEAN nations are becoming better connected with the rest of the world.

"The vision of a seamless and integrated ASEAN that examines institutional connectivity alongside the physical infrastructure provides common frameworks that can remove trade barriers and maximize the infrastructure investment, and bring benefit to the people," Jin said.

​But Beijing's specter looms over BRI ventures, even as businesses demonstrate interest in associated infrastructure projects. A report published in January by the ASEAN Studies Centre highlighted suspicions about China's presence.

In a survey which included public officials and businesspeople in the region, 47% of about 1,000 respondents said they think the BRI "will bring ASEAN member states closer into China's orbit." The report noted that this finding "may have profound implications for Southeast Asia given the region's concern that China will become a revisionist power."
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