Conceptualising Economic Corridors and Its Significance for South Asia
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South Asia Democratic Forum
Publication date: 2020-06-17
Stosunki Międzynarodowe – International Relations 2018;54(2):79–103
Economic corridors (ECs) have become the centre of attention of many planned development initiatives worldwide. Yet no source has been able to provide a clear definition. The definition of economic corridors remains challenged largely due to the multitude of factors determining its genesis and nature, and thus no corridor matches exactly the characteristics of another. Most of the conceptional work analysing economic corridors has been conducted in the context of spatial planning and geography, centred around urban development and potential spill-over effects into peripheral (rural) areas, predominantly linked with ADB-initiated projects in Southeast Asia. Although many studies about Beijing’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), and especially those concerning the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), have been published in recent years, it will turn out how far these BRIrelated analyses will contribute to the conceptualisation and commonly accepted theoretical understanding of ECs. In brief, the paper understands ECs not only as infrastructural measures facilitating transport but rather as a comprehensive development approach to foster industrial capabilities, services, trade and investment. It is therefore expected that the establishment of ECs will be accompanied by crucial social and political impacts. To realise their full potential, economic corridors need to determine their economic, organisational, institutional, behavioural, political, and planning characteristics. Without these characteristics, any ‘corridor’ cannot be considered ‘economic’. Furthermore, it is argued that these characteristics not only describe economic corridors as such but also serve as indicators to measure their feasibility, functionality, effectiveness and efficiency. Based on the existing literature and the author’s own observations about ECs in Asia (Focus CPEC), the paper offers a new conceptualisation of ECs based on identified characteristics and indicators for the successful planning and implementation of ECs.