China’s One Belt One Road, threat or a major opportunity?

 

Earlier this year, the first train rumbled down the tracks of a $3.4 billion electric railway connecting landlocked Ethiopia with Djibouti and its access to the Red Sea. The 750-kilometer (466 miles) line, expected to carry up to five million tons of goods per year. Around the same time on a different continent,after 18 days and 28,000 kilometers, the first-ever direct China-to-Britain freight train pulled into London. It passed through Kazakhstan, Russia, Belarus, Poland, Germany, Belgium and France, finally crossing under the English Channel. Inside the 68 containers were household items, clothes, fabrics, bags and suitcases.

Two different continents, two unconnected events you might think….well no, both the trains are the result of a little known Chinese initiative called “One Belt, One Road. The 3.4 billion USD rail road connecting Djibouti to landlocked Ethiopia, was built with Chinese credit, by engineers from China Rail, and use locomotives built by CSR Zhuzhou. The Chinese locomotive that pulled into London was the latest milestone in China’s ambitions to redevelop the old “Silk Road” trade routes from Asia to Europe and a direct result of the One Belt One Road Programme. (OBOR)

When completed, the OBOR will include 60 countries, with two-thirds of the world’s population, 55% of the global GDP and 75% of global energy reserves. It will consist of 900 infrastructure projects, valued at about $1.3 trillion

So, what is this One Belt One Road, that a lot of startled western and some Indian politicians are waking up to?

I believe what we may currently be witnessing is a carving out by China of a continental-maritime geo-strategic realm constituted by ‘One Belt and One Road’ initiative.

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Illegal migration and the EU’s mis-targeted response

In 2015, according to Frontex, the EU Agency for protection of EU borders, a record of 1,820,000 illegal immigrants entered the EU (these were the ones officially detected and recorded, at least another 400,000 are thought to have escaped detection). Of these illegal migrants, most of the flow from Africa is focussed on using Libya as a launching pad into Europe. Italy and to a lesser extent Malta, are the reluctant hosts.

In Malta where I live, we see a lot more Eritreans, Somalis and to a lesser extent Nigerians and Ghanaians on the streets. On a little island of white Christians, the increasing number of black Muslims has created something of a schism. Middle-class liberals, talk about human rights and asylum from persecution. The majority of the population, including most politicians irrespective of their credo, talk about mass deportations. Once in a while, we wake up to bloated bodies on the beaches when a smuggling boat has given to Davy Jones Locker.

This and the previous year, have seen a severe backlash in the EU against illegal migration. The agony of Syrian refugees has been blunted by a huge number of economic migrants, from Pakistan, Afghanistan and The Sahel who have jumped on the Syrian bandwagon.

However, Europe’s refugee crisis is not only an urgent humanitarian disaster, but has also spawned an incredibly lucrative industry. Refugees and migrants are spending immense sums of money in attempts to reach Europe, syphoning more than billion dollars a year into an underground economy of traffickers…

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Hello, Gentle Reader……….

Hello gentle reader, (with apologies to Charlotte Bronte), in your meanderings through the web, looking, for (hopefully) non-salacious material, you have stumbled upon my exercise in self-indulgence. For those of you, who have not nodded off by now, I cannot promise advise on how to grow hair, increase the length of your penis, nor where to borrow money at 0% interest. I can, however provide you with some of my thoughts on political issues in Africa and South Asia, which may be in the news, and which my clients pay rather handsomely to obtain. Naturally, I won’t be putting down here all the reports that I am paid to do, but a few that will, I hope, make you think twice about the news that you read or hear in the mainstream media.

In the past twenty-five years, I have occupied various positions of trust, as advisor to a range of ministers and heads of states in countries euphemistically referred to as “economies in transition”. As long as I can remember, these countries have remained in this fluid state of transition, not perhaps wanting to leave the comfort of this phase, not to mention the risk of losing large amounts of western aid money, that invariably accompany anything in transition.

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