By Dr. Suleiman Walhad
June 28th, 2022
“Water, water everywhere, nor any drop to drink”, is part of a long poem by the English Poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge published in 1798 and entitled the Rime of the Ancient Mariner. It is often misquoted as “Water, water everywhere, but not a drop to drink”. The title of this article uses the same rime but to mark the many pledges and pledges made by the developed world towards the developing world, while they are, in effect, abusing them through exploitation of their resources and messing up their governance systems. And the latest pledge is the G7 US$ 600 billion supposedly designed to counter China’s giant Belt Road Initiative, a project of considerable size reported to be in the region of some US$ 1.4 trillion. Already some US$900 billion of the BRI is reported to have been invested in railways, roads and ports across the Eurasian region, including parts of the Horn and East Africa.
The new G7 pledge, of US$ 600 billion follows President Biden’s project of “Build Back a Better World” or “B3W” in 2021 in Glasgow, UK and it seems it would involve “… four pillars — climate, health, digital and gender — … areas in which the United States and its G-7 partners have comparative advantages,” as was described by Jonathan E. Hillman, a senior fellow with the Center for Strategic and International Studies Economics Program, at the time.
It is said that the funds would be contributed by the United States, the Europeans and others as follows: United States would contribute some US$ 200 billion in the form of grants, federal funds and private investments over a five-year period. European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen told the gathering that Europe will mobilize 300 billion euros (U$317.28 billion) for the B3W over the same period. Japan, the UK and others have not pronounced on their pledges, but they are part of the G7 anyway and they would contribute, at what levels… only they know.
“I want to be clear. This isn’t aid or charity. It’s an investment that will deliver returns for everyone,” Biden said, adding that it would allow countries to “see the concrete benefits of partnering with democracies.” And this is no different than what the Chinese are doing. There is no free bread. The Chinese are lending the countries through which the infrastructures financed by them pass through and hence earn returns for their Export Import Bank and other institutions The BRI, however, huge and big, is just to burden more the poor countries. But something is better than nothing, anyway, and only if they are practically done and implemented. The Chinese have been working on their BRI for the past 9 years, since 2013, when President Xi Jinping launched the project. The Chinese project is reported to involve over 100 countries of the world with perhaps almost half of the world’s GDP and of course a significant portion of its population. It is said that they want to recreate the ancient “silk road” trade route from Asia to Europe.
The G7 partners point out to a US$ 2 billion solar energy project in Angola, a US$ 3.3 million technical assistance to Institut Pasteur de Dakar in Senegal and a US$ 50 million pledge over five years to the World Bank’s global Childcare Incentive Fund as some of the West’s contributions to the developing world. How is this comparable to or compatible with some US$ 900 billion BRI projects already implemented? These are incomparable numbers. However, there is a start for everything and if the new US$ 600 billion pledge is to dent a little the dire need of the world, it would not only contribute to slightly improve the lives of many people but would also contribute to the wellbeing of the world’s general economy and its growth.
However, it is sad to note that this appears to being merely done out of jealousy and not because of genuine intentions to participate in the development process of the less endowed other parts of the world. But does it matter if it could be done? They call it competition, but the start, as noted in the above paragraph, does not pose well, for such competition. There should be no competition, and the program should be genuinely seen for what it should be – investing in the developing countries to earn some income in the future, and if they could succeed, so be it.
Obviously, the Chinese are not doing their investments for free, and they do not hide it. A prime example is how they handled the port they built in Sri Lanka, which they today fully control and manage. There is one way, though, the G7 and the West in general could win over the competition. The Chinese do all the projects with their own personnel and never with the locals in the countries where the projects are being implemented. If the West can implement their projects in the developing world with guaranteed jobs for the locals at higher levels and training them, they can easily defeat whatever project, the Chinese come up with for there seem to be no spin offs from any Chinese project for the local economies in terms of sub-contracts or employment and so on during the implementation process. It would seem everything is done by Chinese including the sub-contractors. This is part of their agreements with the local authorities.
The Chinese are further supported by their seemingly overt “non-intervention” attitude in local governance, although this is not actually true, for they do, indeed, stealthily corrupt local officials. They seem also to be leaving behind the pronounced non-intervention in local affairs towards participating in peace building. The recent peace development conference in Addis Ababa, organized by Xue Bing, China’s special envoy to the Horn of Africa States, is clearly an indication of the future of China’s foreign relations with the developing world.
President Biden was correct to point out that world is at a genuine inflection point, and that choices made today would have consequential influences on how the developing countries of the world would face the future in the light of changing climate, digitalization, pandemics and other unforeseen issues. The world including the developing countries should be prepared for the digital age, which is transforming the world as we know it today. There is nothing wrong with working in the developing world. Such works and investments would be beneficial to both the beneficiary and the benefactor, and this is how, things should be seen, and the first step is to convert the pledges into implemented projects. No more pledges without implementing them!!!!!