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Belt and Road Forum brings clarity but not yet fees

The B&R forum held in Beijing brought a little clarity to a so far rather nebulous concept.

Brought into focus: Chinese president Xi Jinping welcomes heads of states
to the Belt and Road Forum

The summit in May brought, for example, the commitment of a further RMB780 billion to overseas initiatives in 60 countries, split between the Silk Road Fund, the two policy banks – China Development Bank and China Eximbank – and Chinese commercial banks.

International banks say there are Belt and Road (B&R)-related projects to bid and work on now, in Pakistan for example, though there is already a steady creep of unrelated projects under the umbrella of B&R during bank pitches.

In the past month, one bank has tried to present the mooted Singapore-Kuala Lumpur rail link as a B&R project, and another banker confesses that he just uses the topic in an emergency when conversation with a client dries up: “So, done any Belt and Road lately?”

There’s an argument to be made that B&R is just a slogan for infrastructure that would have been developed anyway. One senior banker calls it a supercharger for an existing theme; another, among the senior leadership of one of China’s largest banks, calls it a paraphrasing of globalization.

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