Connectivity is costly. Developing countries in Asia alone will need to invest US$1.7 trillion (S$2.3 trillion) a year in infrastructure for the next decade and more to keep their economies going. More and better roads and rail networks, as well as reliable supplies of water and electricity, are fundamental to their growth. The problem has been funding. When China's Belt and Road Initiative was launched in 2013, it drew much attention. Poorer countries now had a new source of funds in China. President Xi Jinping's project that aims to connect far flung parts of Asia, Africa and Europe has rightly been described as visionary and the biggest development push in history.
But five years on, it has competitors. The Japanese and the Europeans are offering similar help for infrastructure building, albeit on a smaller scale. The latest entrant to the game came as a surprise: the United States. Earlier this month, President Donald Trump approved the creation of the US International Development Finance Corp, reversing his campaign pledges to slash foreign aid. The shift is grounded not so much on altruism as hard-nosed politics: The aim is to block China.
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