Pakistan Should Align Economic Opportunities Offered by BRI & B3W: Experts

Pakistan needs to identify and cultivate all the emerging opportunities of economic development, especially those that are being offered by regional and global development initiatives, including the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and Build Back Better World (B3W).

Therefore, a robust engagement with all the stakeholders and improving relevant policy frameworks should be the key priorities for Pakistan. The experts shared this viewpoint during the webinar ‘Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) vs Build Back Better World (B3W): Where does Pakistan Stand?’, organized by the Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI).

Mr. Mustafa Syed, Executive Director of Pakistan China Institute, while sharing his views about international trade diplomacy, emphasized that Pakistan needs to identify viable development projects linked with its national plan.

“Pakistan should partner with all countries as this partnership will be a win-win for all. However, improving security would be imperative as we cannot afford incidents like in Gwadar, Karachi, and Dasu,” Mr. Syed said. He further added that B3W is a good initiative in terms of competition, although it is too late. However, Pakistan should welcome investments from all countries.

Mr. Hassan Daud Butt, the CEO of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Board of Investment and Trade, explained that Pakistan has been able to showcase through the BRI that it could absorb investment. He said that we could leverage what we know by benefiting from the BRI, where Afghanistan is a partner country, and B3W, which can provide state-of-the-art equipment. We can connect East to West, bringing harmony and people-to-people connections and infrastructure.

Dr. Abid Qayum Suleri, Executive Director of SDPI, highlighted that under B3W, climate, health security, digital technology, and gender equity, etc., are some of the key focus areas, which are quite different from what BRI offers. He added further that B3W projects would be evaluated through different lenses, such as norms on corruption, human rights, labor rights, and environmental standards.

“Pakistan is in a unique position and it needs equally good relations with all powers in this multipolar world including China, Russia, US, EU, etc.,” Dr. Suleri said and added that a single country or economic bloc cannot tackle global challenges. The challenges such as COVID-19 and climate change should also remain areas of the key focus.

Director China Study Centre at the Institute of Strategic Studies, Dr. Talat Shabbir, while giving a comparative perspective, highlighted that the BRI is mostly about economic connectivity. He said that the BRI relies on bilateral loans and state-guaranteed funds, whereas the B3W plans to mobilize bilateral, multilateral, and private sector capital tools.

Dr. Shafqat Munir, Senior Research Fellow SDPI, while moderating the session, pointed out that “where CPEC and BRI are clear in terms of their rules and principles, we are yet to have a clear picture of the B3W.” He asserted that no investment is sustainable until it is secured. Regional countries are in a bid to restore peace in Afghanistan, which is a good omen for the future of development initiatives in the region. Dr. Hina Aslam, Research Fellow SDPI, earlier presented the detail of the various aspects of BRI and B3W.