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AIIB, a paradigm power shift
There are but a few hours left for those countries who aspire to be founding members of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB). Time is up at midnight.
As of 6 p.m. Tuesday, 46 countries had applied to be founders of the bank, but the United States and Japan have remained on the sidelines. The financial authority of China's Taiwan said on Tuesday afternoon that the island has submitted a letter of intent on joining the mainland-proposed AIIB. Founders will be finalized on April 15.
The bank was proposed by Chinese President Xi Jinping in October 2013.
A year later, and 21 Asian nations, including China, India, Malaysia, Pakistan and Singapore had signed an agreement to establish the bank, headquartered in Beijing.
On March 12, 2015, Britain applied to join the AIIB as a prospective founding member, the first major western country to do so. France, Italy and Germany quickly followed suit.
Other nations will still be able to join the bank after the deadline, but only as ordinary members.
Negotiations on the AIIB charter are expected to conclude in the middle of the year and the bank should be formally established by the end of this year.
Building for Success
As its name suggests, the AIIB will finance infrastructure--airports, mobile phone towers, railways, roads--in Asia.
There is a yawning infrastructure funding gap in Asia. The Asian Development Bank (ADB) pegged the hole at about eight trillion U.S. dollars between 2010 and 2020.
The World Bank and Asian Development Bank are more focused on poverty reduction and their funds alone are insufficient to bridge the gap, according to Hans-Paul Burkner, chair of the Boston Consulting Group.
While both the ADB and World Bank focus on a broad range of development programs including agriculture, education and gender equality, the AIIB will concentrate on infrastructure alone. The IMF, World Bank and ADB have all welcomed the AIIB initiative and see room for collaboration
The bank will have an authorized capital 100 billion U.S. dollars and the initial subscribed capital is expected to be around 50 billion dollars. Although hardly enough to meet demand, it will still be a helpful boost.
Good for Asia; Good for All
As the first China-proposed multilateral financial institution that has included developed nations as members, the AIIB offers an opportunity to test China's ability to play its role as a responsible country, analysts said.
The initiative followed years of frustrated attempts to reform the existing international financial institutions, which have failed to reflect the changing landscape of global economy.
The existing economic system, shaped by the Bretton Woods agreement seven decades ago, is dominated by western countries and increasingly unrepresentative of the world's economic architecture. Since the global financial crisis, emerging markets are becoming the main development drivers. Asian countries now make up one third of the global economy.
As global economic power shifts to emerging markets, it is only fair that they should play a bigger role in global institutions. Burkner said, "if it is not happening, then it is important to create additional institutions which, to some extent, cooperate and compete with existing institutions.
"There will be cooperation and also some healthy competition with the ADB and the World Bank."
Good for Asia; good for the world as a whole.
Jin Liqun, secretary general of the interim secretariat of the AIIB, regards the bank as a complement to, rather than a substitute for, the World Bank and the ADB. It will improve the existing international financial system, not overturn it, Jin said.
The AIIB is just the start. Jim O'Neil, coiner of the BRICs acronym and former chairman of Goldman Sachs Asset Management, believes there are plenty more areas where China needs to be drawn in.
With its Belt and Road initiatives, the AIIB and other entities (a joint development bank with BRICs partners Brazil, Russia, India and South Africa, for example) China is trying to make its own development beneficial to the whole continent.
After over three decades of fast expansion, benefiting from globalization and opening-up, China can now share the fruits of its development and build a "community of common destiny" through international and regional cooperation.
Into the Unknown
Even after membership is finalized, many questions will remain. How will the AIIB be governed? What will be the decision-making process be? What lending criteria will it adopt? Will its policies be transparent and address issues like the environment?
The answers to those questions will determine whether the bank stands or falls.
While details are pending, China has repeatedly stated that the AIIB will uphold high standards and learn from the best practices at existing multilateral financial institutions.
During an interview with Xinhua, Lou Jiwei said the bank will have a three-tier structure -- a council, a board of directors and management, as well as a supervising mechanism to ensure sufficient, open and transparent policy-making.
The prime challenge for the AIIB is how to channel funds to the most productive projects while maintaining security of repayment.
Zhang Yuyan, chief of the institute of world economics and politics at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, a government think tank, believes that, since infrastructure projects usually have long funding cycles and great potential for waste, sustainable profitability will be the real test of the AIIB.
Rigorous consultation and skillful management to coordinate and balance various demands and interests among members will be of the essence, Zhang said. This will be challenging at the very least, with so many histories, cultures and development stages on show.
[Source: Xinhua, Beijing, 31Mar15]
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