Putrajaya wants transparency in China’s Belt and Road Initiative, says Ong

Deputy Minister of International Trade and Industry Ong Kian Ming speaks during a forum at Menara Miti in Kuala Lumpur April 16, 2019. — Picture by Shafwan Zaidon
Deputy Minister of International Trade and Industry Ong Kian Ming speaks during a forum at Menara Miti in Kuala Lumpur April 16, 2019. — Picture by Shafwan Zaidon

KUALA LUMPUR, April 16 — Transparency tops Putrajaya’s priorities if it is to participate in China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), Deputy International Trade and Industry Minister Ong Kian Ming said today.

The unprecedented amount of money involved in a project seen as Beijing’s push for global dominance calls for greater accountability and good governance, the Serdang MP said.

This comes amid growing suspicion of China’s intentions after some countries involved in the BRI accused Beijing of colonisation through debt.

“This is probably the greatest mobilisation of men and capital since World War II,” Ong said at a forum organised by the Malaysia-China Chamber of Commerce here.

“More transparency helps deal with a backlash in case questions are raised about financing.”

Putrajaya is expected to convey Malaysia's position on the BRI when Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad attends the second Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation in Beijing later this month.

China was the third biggest export market for Malaysia in 2018 after the European Union and the United States.

The Pakatan Harapan administration had said the communist republic will remain a top trade partner, despite a rocky start to their relationship over a slew of infrastructure projects involving Chinese state companies.

The two countries, which first established diplomatic relations at the height of the Cold War in 1974, marked a new phase in bilateral relations over the weekend following the negotiation success that saw Beijing and Putrajaya come to an agreement over the East Coast Rail Link (ECRL) project.

The ECRL, which is among several large-scale infrastructure projects under the BRI, will commence after the developer agreed to cut the cost by RM21 billion.  

Today, Ong suggested the PH administration remains convinced of the initiative’s growth potential, but stressed a successful participation will hinge on Beijing’s willingness to work on a clear set of policy terms.

This includes outlining better governance and transparency standards, which the deputy minister said is crucial to keep projects under the initiative financially sustainable.

“It can help convince other governments,” Ong said.

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