Erle Frayne Argonza y Delago
Magandang araw! Good day!
Around two (2) years ago, I articulated in one article the gigantic project that will rise in the Mekong River very soon. I was at that time already very supportive of the project, a support that I will re-echo at this moment.
For those unfamiliar with the project, a plan was hatched at the middle part of the decade for an integrated project along the Mekong River. Since the river begins upstream at the China side, China logically has to be involved in it. Finally, with blueprints for implementation on the go around 2007 yet, China committed to fund the projected cost of $100 Billion.
So huge a project, it will have couples of components into it. Power generation, irrigation, flood control, transportation, and tourism comprise the core sector components. A project of that size is four (4) times bigger than China’s own 3-Gorges Dam (it cost $23 at 2000 price index) and could be the largest that the world will ever have experienced once fully accomplished.
Benefiting approximately 300 million beneficiaries along its courses, the project is bound to spur development and generate incomes many folds larger than its total investments. If we use the econometric index of annual income yield that is 10X, then we can expect an annual income yield of $1 Trillion from out of the upstream and downstream industries induced by the project.
Since China is involved in it right now (as implementation is going on), then we expect China to receive the ROI (return on investments) in the widest expanse of benefits possible. That means, once fully operational, China will infuse more investments in the region to fully benefit from the project alone. The ROI will then be much greater than the original $100 accruing to China alone on an annual basis.
We can therefore hope for an excellent win/win situation for China and the ASEAN countries involved (Vietnam is the lead country executor). In the long run, we should hope that the same project would accrue to the growth & development of the entire ASEAN region that is bound to institute an economic union by 2015.
A win/win formula for the ASEAN itself is for it to use the Mekong project as exemplar to design and implement similar projects in other member countries, particularly in island southeast Asia. A particular office can be created in the ASEAN secretariat to oversee and help similar projects that can spin off in other parts of the region.
Since an ASEAN central bank is due for institution by 2015, let us expect that monetary instruments for financial packages can be had for gigantic infrastructure projects of the magnitude of the Mekong project. Probably an ASEAN Development Bank can also rise alongside the central bank, thus reinforcing the potency for launching gigantic projects that will be financed internally by the region itself.
If ever the ASEAN will wish to tap other countries for co-financing of the projects, it should be the emerging markets as top priority such as China, India, and Brazil, countries that will be more sympathetic to regional development. The option will help us veer away from the mal-intents of Northern banks that tied up developing countries in debt peonage and won at the expense of the developing countries.
As a matter of goodwill, ASEAN should better enter into the picture and look at other facets of the project that the future union can fund. The expansion phases of the Mekong project, for instance, can be taken over by the ASEAN itself, thus lessening dependence from external funders.
There are always pains to any large project, these being part of the costs of any undertaking. Nonetheless, the Mekong project should be supported and must go on until full completion. This will render it as an exemplar just right in time for the creation of the ASEAN economic union by 2015.
[Philippines, 05 November 2010]
[See: IKONOKLAST: http://erleargonza.blogspot.com,
BRIGHTWORLD: http://erlefraynebrightworld.wordpress.com, ARTBLOG: http://erleargonza.wordpress.com,