Tuesday, February 20, 2018

The US-India-Japan-Australia Alternative To OBOR Should Focus on Broadband And Hyperloop And Drones

Talk of four-nation-led ‘alternative’ to Belt and Road picks up steam
Planning is under way to establish a joint regional infrastructure scheme led by the US, India, Japan and Australia, as the four countries continue efforts to balance China’s growing regional influence. ....... The official played down the idea that the plan would be a “rival” to China’s Belt and Road Initiative, saying he preferred the word “alternative.” ....... “No one is saying China should not build infrastructure” ........ “China might build a port which on its own is not economically viable. We could make it economically viable by building a road or rail line linking that port.” ......... The planning comes as the Trump administration embraces Japan’s articulation of a “free and open Indo-Pacific.” ....... the China hawk nominated to be the US ambassador to Australia, Harry Harris, was expressing concerns about China’s “predatory economic behavior in the Indo-Pacific.”
There is no need for a Cold War mentality. This is not war. This is trade. But competition is good. Let US-India-Japan-Australia compete with China. The peoples of Asia and Africa will benefit.

The primary focus ought be to take broadband to every community across the region. Then there has to be a major push for clean energy. Energy is the number one bottleneck to prosperity. And the bullet train perhaps should be bypassed for hyperloop technology. The biggest cities should connect to satellite cities and to each other. But if broadband gets there first, education will improve fast, and many people will get to telecommute, there will be ecommerce proliferation.

Ports, and rails, and roads have not gone out of fashion.

But infrastructure is not only physical. It can be argued, the number one item is identity infrastructure, the biometric kind that India has managed to build. The number two item is credit infrastructure so as to make loands available to everyone. What has been done in India should be replicated across the region, across Africa.

And just like Indians skipped landlines and went straight to mobile phones, the drone technology allows one to not wait until roads and bridges are built in remote, sparsely populated regions. Drones are the new "wireless."

Both camps - China and the alternate - ought to get the interest rate right. The work has to feel more like a Marshall Plan than usury.