China-proposed Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) is providing huge opportunities for Cambodia in terms of social and economic development, United Nations officials and experts said at a forum here on Wednesday.
The initiative, a reference to the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road, was proposed by China in 2013, with the aim of building a trade and infrastructure network connecting Asia with Europe and Africa along the ancient trade routes of Silk Road.
"BRI offers tremendous opportunities for Cambodia and the Royal Government has clearly indicated its commitment to the project," United Nations Development Program (UNDP) Resident Representative Nick Beresford said during a BRI policy dialogue in Cambodia.
"Now, the challenge is to consider how these investments, and indeed all investments, in the country can be made fully inclusive and sustainable, so that we leave no one behind," he said.
Sarah Zhou, resident representative of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in Cambodia, said that with a significant infrastructure gap, Cambodia can capitalize on China's resources and technical capabilities from BRI to finance its development priorities, boosting growth and employment opportunities.
"Given the scale of the initiative and its international scope, upgrading policy frameworks to foster greater coordination and cooperation between China and Cambodia could help maximize benefits," she said.
Chan Sophal, director of the Cambodia-based Center for Policy Studies, said Chinese aid and investments are crucial for Cambodia's socio-economic development.
China has been investing overseas and this is a good match to Cambodia that needs to rebuild the country to catch up with its neighbors, he said.
The UN in Cambodia believes that taking full advantage of the BRI requires adopting clear policies and continued analysis to assess progress in Cambodia, said UN Resident Coordinator Pauline Tamesis.
Cambodian Economy and Finance Ministry Under Secretary of State Hem Vanndy said Cambodia treated the debts the country contracted under the BRI like any other debts from multilateral and bilateral institutions.
"But BRI is not going to create a debt trap for Cambodia," he said in his closing remarks of the dialogue.
Since 2018, the UN in Cambodia has organized a series of policy dialogues on the BRI and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, said a UN in Cambodia's press release.
These policy dialogues have engaged senior representatives of the Cambodian government, the diplomatic community, international organizations, academia, and think tanks, the release said.