Dr. Patrick Ho, Deputy Chairman and Secretary General of the China Energy Fund Committee, has proposed a major initiative to identify ways to integrate into the Belt and Road Initiative the reconstruction of the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region. The proposal, called MERCI (Middle East Reconstruction Initiative) was presented at two major international conferences in early July.
On July 6, Dr. Ho introduced it to the Agriculture for Sustainable Development conference at the United Nations. The following day, he addressed the Schiller Institute’s “Food for Peace and Thought” seminar in New York City, co-sponsored by the CEFC he heads.
The MENA region, Dr. Ho explained, is an essential link between East and West, and many countries in that region are, or used to be, major agricultural countries, such as Israel, Iraq and Egypt.
Syria, he explained, used to produce 4 million tons of wheat annually: 1.5 million for export and 2.5 million for internal consumption. Now, after years of terrorist and other military attacks, they produce only 450,000 tons, and the people have fled the country by the millions. Some nations, he said, view the military conquest of terrorism as the solution, but he points out that as the war against terrorism has expanded from the early period, 2001 to 2004, to the more recent period 2012 to 2015, the number of people killed in terrorist attacks globally has been increased sixfold. The best hope, he asserted, involves “changing the underlying socio-economic conditions.”