Investment in Southeast Asia: From IFIs to BRI: Page 2 of 3

Posted on 16 September 2019

sustainable development.

This is where IFIs again enter the picture. We know that IFIs have a long history of creating smooth conditions for profiteering: in the 1970s onwards, they enabled and sponsored privatisation of social services, which peoples’ movements opposed. Then they forwarded public-private partnerships (PPPs), which many of us also opposed for just being privatisation by other means, with public cost for private gain.

The agenda of IFIs today is a continuing issue, with major institutions – the World Bank, Asian Development Bank, Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank  led by powers such as the US, Japan, and China – promoting corporations and private investors to finance development and increase investment. This is what we call the corporate capture of the supposed sustainable development agenda.

This could be seen for instance in different IFI frameworks, from the World Bank’s Maximising Finance for Development Approach, the ADB Strategy 2030, and AIIB private sector promotion.

Trend 3: Rise of China & BRI

Another trend in the region is the rise of China. China is expanding economic reach amidst unused capital for export – and is continuing its “going out” policy. China has more than a hundred giant state-owned enterprises (SOEs) in the 500 biggest corporations of the world, and is a big investor, financier of projects, in infrastructure and others.

Even outside the current Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) framework, there have been communities feeling the impacts of China-backed dams in Laos and other projects in the Mekong, as well as in the Philippines.  China’s corporations are already involved in landgrabbing for sugar production in Cambodia.

These set a bad precedent for the China-led initiative. BRI was first announced in 2013 (then known as One Belt One Road) by China’s President Xi Jinping. We see this as a reaction to the Obama-launched US pivot to Asia as global powers try to increase influence in our region. It is dubbed by China as a new mode of China-led international cooperation in trade, investment, culture, and finance. 

BRI aims to create economic corridors in land and sea, with supposed 171 bilateral agreements with 123 states and 29 international organisations as of March 2019, according to government data. [ix] BRI is touted to encourage FDI in infrastructure along economic corridors, with USD 64 billion agreed upon in the second BRI forum in China in 2019. [x]

The BRI works as a new wave of big capital investment promotion in Asia – for China’s state-owned commercial banks as well as traditional monopolistic corporations, and for China’s SOEs as project contractors.

These are among key investment trends in our subregion today, which concern us all.

Ways forward

Not all trends are worrying. Many communities across Southeast Asia are already campaigning to demand thatforeign investors and corporations should not be the main actors in our economies and development.

It is important to strengthen this, by joining campaigns to strengthen our ranks in resisting corporations’ violations of our rights. There is the People Over Profit network as a campaign network against corporate plunder, which is open to everyone who wishes to take

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