Chinese President Xi Jinping, center, stands with Russian President Vladimir Putin, left, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, right, and other leaders to pose for a group photo prior to the opening ceremony of the Belt and Road Forum at the China National Convention Center in Beijing Sunday, May 14, 2017. Xi called Sunday for closer cooperation across Asia and Europe in areas from anti-terrorism to finance, as leaders from 29 countries gathered to promote a Chinese trade initiative that could increase Beijing's global influence. Picture: Alexander Zemlianichenko/AP

Beijing – China has pledged an additional US$124 billion for its ambitious new Silk Road plan at an international summit held, here, on Sunday.

Chinese President Xi Jinping, during the opening ceremony of the Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation, discussed some of the finances involving the plan.

The two-day event was held at the China National Convention Center.

World Leaders, delegates and the businesses community from more than 100 countries attended the forum.

China has helped build several major projects to improve infrastructure and connectivity under the Belt and Road Initiative. This includes the Jakarta-Bandung high-speed railway, China-Laos railway, Addis Ababa-Djibouti railway and Hungary-Serbia railway, and upgraded Gwadar and Piraeus ports.

Xi said a multi-dimensional infrastructure network was taking shape, underpinned by economic corridors such as China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, China-Mongolia-Russia Economic Corridor and the New Eurasian Continental Bridge.

The network featured land, sea and air transportation routes and information expressway supported by major railway, port and pipeline projects.

Xi said: “Together we can build a broad community of shared interests. We should uphold the multilateral trading regime, advance free trade and promote liberalisation and facilitation of trade and investment.”

World leaders pose for a family photo during to the opening ceremony of the Belt and Road Forum in Beijing. Picture: Sergei Guneyev, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP

XI promised a massive boost to the scheme, which included:

- An additional US$14.5 billion to the Silk Road Fund.

- Setting up 50 joint laboratories with participating countries participating to enhance -cooperation on innovation.

- Provide assistance worth US$8.7 billion to developing countries and international organisations participating in the initiative to launch more projects to improve people’s well-being.

– 60 billion yuan in aid to developing countries and international institutions in new Silk Road countries

- Encouraging financial institutions to expand their overseas yuan fund businesses to the tune of 300 billion yuan

- 2 billion yuan in emergency food aid

- $1 billion to a South – South Cooperation fund

- $1 billion for cooperation projects in countries on the new Silk Road.

He said the Belt and Road Initiative focused on the Asian, European and African

countries, but he extended an invitation saying it was open to other countries.

The International Monetary Fund welcomed the initiative to rejuvenate the old Silk Road.

World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim delivers his speech during the Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation in Beijing. Picture: Jim Yong Kim/Reuters

The fund’s managing director Christine Lagarde said the plan was about connecting cultures, communities, economies, and people. “It is about rejuvenating ancient trade routes and building new ones. It is also about adding new economic flavours by creating infrastructure projects that are based on 21st-century expertise and governance standards.”

She warned that delivering on this promise was not an easy task—but doing so could bring enormous benefits. She earmarked three areas.

The first, she said was high-quality infrastructure could help close the developing-country infrastructure gap of about $1.5 trillion per year, lift potential global growth, and raise the incomes of millions of people. As the Chinese proverb goes: “ To become rich, one must first build roads.”

A second benefit was greater inclusiveness . She said new ports, roads, and power grids would allow developing countries to better connect with global supply chains. Improved roads in rural areas would boost productivity, school enrolment, and access to health services. “By sharing the benefits of investment and knowledge more broadly, growth will be stronger, more durable, and more inclusive.”

A third benefit, she said, was stronger economic cooperation – including on the business and regulatory environment. “This would help boost global trade, investment, and financial cooperation, and make it easier to share the benefits of growth more widely. This is good for consumers, good for productivity, and good for poverty reduction.”

She believed together, “we can create something new – by combining proven policy ingredients with new economic flavours.”

Weekend Argus