KUALA LUMPUR, Jan. 22 (Xinhua) -- A senior HSBC economist on Monday expressed high expectations for the China-proposed Belt and Road Initiative to promote the Southeast Asian economy.
As China's economy grew 6.9 percent year on year in 2017, well above the official target of around 6.5 percent, Frederic Neumann said the banking group is fairly optimistic that China will maintain the current pace of growth this year and even accelerates into 2019.
The 6.9-percent growth reading was higher than the 6.7-percent growth registered in 2016, and marked the first acceleration in annual growth pace since 2010.
At a media briefing here on Monday, Neumann, HSBC's Asian Economics Research co-head, said the Belt and Road Initiative is about China working with partners and governments along the routes identifying projects that are "commercially viable."
Once the system is in place, other investors will be drawn in and kickstart local economy, he added.
Thus, the initiative is one way to address the infrastructure gap in Southeast Asia, which could amount to hundreds of billions of U.S. dollars, the expert said.
Proposed by China in 2013, the Belt and Road Initiative refers to the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road, aiming at building a trade and infrastructure network connecting Asia with Europe and Africa along the ancient trade routes of Silk Road.