Monday, April 15, 2024

Barbados eyeing China loans


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Government is looking to China for low-interest loans and grants to finance infrastructural development.

It is aiming to tap into the Belt and Road Initiative, China’s gigantic global infrastructure and trade programme.

Minister of Foreign Affairs Senator Jerome Walcott signed a memorandum of understanding in Beijing last week that opens the way for Barbados to participate in the programme.

In an interview later, the minister cited expansion of the Grantley Adams International Airport and the Bridgetown Port among projects that would be considered.

So too, is the proposal for artificial islands off Barbados and a national ferry service as well as one linking Caribbean nations that has been talked about for generations.

Issues for discussion

“These are some of the issues that I’ve put on the table for discussion,” Walcott said. “Obviously, you now have to do things like pre-feasibility studies, the logistics and the consultations.”

One project that predated the Belt and Road MOU is the National Stadium, whose crumbling stands had been closed to the public for almost four years.

Walcott confirmed that Government has been having “positive” discussions with the Chinese Embassy on the “refurbishment” of the stadium. It had been announced during the Freundel Stuart Administration that China would undertake the project, but the arrangements fell through.

The Mia Mottley Administration is keen for works to start as soon as possible as it has an eye on two dates – the 50th anniversary of the official opening of the Stadium falling in 2020, and the 50th anniversary CARIFTA Games two years later.

Barbados organised the first

Games in 1972 but hasn’t hosted them since 2001.

China has already provided the Wildey Gymnasium at the Garfield Sobers Sports Complex and followed up not long ago with the venue’s first major refurbishment. It is also financing the redevelopment of Sam Lord’s Castle.

Asked about concerns in the West that the Belt and Road could become a debt trap for developing nations – a claim China has fiercely rejected – Walcott said: “We are not at all worried that we will enter some arrangement where we do not fulfil our commitments, so I don’t foresee any difficulties in terms of projects that we embark on . . . .”

The minister met his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi and attended the seventh round of consultations between the Ministries of Foreign Affairs of the Caribbean countries, which have diplomatic relations with China and Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Yi told the meeting that China attached high importance to developing friendly cooperation with Caribbean countries.

Dominica’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Francine Baron thanked the Chinese for offering strong support and assistance to the economic and social development of Caribbean countries, Chinese media reported.

Walcott acknowledged, however, that the Caribbean was concerned about the disparity in trade between China and the region.

“We need to be in a position to push a few things that we manufacture and have greater access to the Chinese market,” he said. (Nationnews Desk)

Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade Senator Jerome Walcott (left) and chairman of China’s National Development and Reform Commission, He Lifeng, signing the Belt and Road Memorandum of Understanding.


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