Monday, April 22, 2024

China’s Belt and Road no ‘debt trap’

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in Beijing

With 2023 marking ten years of China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), of which several Caribbean countries, including Barbados, are a part, China’s foreign minister Qin Gang reaffirmed the country’s commitment to helping developing countries.

Speaking on Tuesday at a press conference of the first session of the 14th National People’s Congress, he said since its inception, the BRI has “galvanised nearly $1 trillion of investment and established more than 3 000 new cooperative projects, creating 420 000 jobs for countries and regions involved and lifted approximately 40 million people out of poverty”.

The BRI is China’s transnational economic belt initiated and led by the government of the People’s Republic of China in 2013. It invests financially in countries and international organisations worldwide.

As of March 2022, 146 countries and 32 international organisations had signed cooperation agreements for the BRI.

Ten Caribbean countries have joined the BRI since its inception, including Barbados, which signed up in 2019. The others are Cuba, Jamaica, Dominican Republic, Antigua & Barbuda, Dominica, Grenada, Trinidad & Tobago, Guyana, and Suriname.

BRI deals not a debt trap

When questioned about claims that the BRI was a tool used for creating “debt traps” for receptive countries, Qin said this is not the case and stressed that multilateral lenders and commercial creditors should take the blame as statistically, they account for a more significant sum of debt in developing countries.

“China should be the last one to be accused of the so-called “debt trap”. Data show that multilateral financial institutions and commercial creditors account for over 80 per cent of the sovereign debt of developing countries. They are the biggest source of the debt burden on relevant countries. Particularly since last year, the unprecedented rapid interest hikes by the United States have led to massive capital outflows in many countries and worsened the debt problems in the countries concerned.”

He added: “China has been making efforts to help relevant countries resolve the difficulties and is the biggest contributor to the G20’s Debt Service Suspension Initiative (DSSI). China will continue to participate constructively in resolving international debt issues. Meanwhile, we call on other parties to act together and share fairly. When parties sit together and talk things through, there will be more solutions.”

China will hold the third BRI Forum for International Cooperation this year, and hopes to take this opportunity to work with all relevant parties to forge ahead with more new achievements, Gang said.

When quizzed about his thoughts on the United States’ plans to roll out a similar project to counter China’s Belt and Road Initiative, dubbed “Build Back Better World” Qin said: “We welcome other countries’ initiatives that don’t divide the world with ideology. We are glad to see the success of those initiatives that promote no geopolitics.”

Developing countries need bigger voice

The new foreign minister also stressed that developing countries needed greater representation on the global stage.

“Developing countries account for more than 80 per cent of the global population and more than 70 per cent of global economic growth.

“People in developing countries are entitled to greater representation and a louder voice in international affairs.

“A just cause should be pursued for the common good. China will keep in mind the interests of the world, take an active part in global governance and contribute more to world peace and development and to human progress.” (AL)

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