As Sri Lanka struggles to repay a USD 8 billion debt to China, Beijing is “willing to give” an estimated additional USD 24 billion as part of the One Belt One Road initiative. China has offered more loans to countries taking part in the ‘One Belt One Road’ initiative, Sri Lanka’s Minister on Special Assignment Sarath Amanugama said. “In Sri Lanka’s case, it may be about four times of what we are getting now, over and above USD 8 billion… they are willing to give,” Amanugama, who is part of the official delegation headed by Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickremeshinghe that took part in the summit meet, told PTI here.
“So we have to negotiate, whether it is Government-to- Government or through (China sponsored) Asia Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) they are going to extend credit,” he said. With the existing USD 8 billion, it will total to USD 32 billion. China is investing more than USD 50 billion in the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) over which India raised concerns as it traverses through Pakistan-occupied Kashmir. India skipped the Belt and Road Forum meeting attended by 29 heads of state and governments besides heads of the UN, the International Monetary Fund and World Bank.
In his statement on May 13 about OBOR, External Affairs Ministry spokesman Gopal Bagley referred to debt burden. “We are of firm belief that connectivity initiatives must be based on universally recognised international norms, good governance, rule of law, openness, transparency and equality. Connectivity initiatives must follow principles of financial responsibility to avoid projects that would create unsustainable debt burden for communities; balanced ecological and environmental protection and preservation standards; transparent assessment of project costs,” he said.
Amanugama, however, played down debt concerns, saying that infrastructure projects take time to fructify and create a short debt crisis, which his government is grappling with at the moment.
He said talks are underway with the Chinese government to give a final shape to the proposal to give 80 per cent share to a Chinese firm in the Hambantota port, built by the previous Mahinda Rajapaksa regime with funds from China.
The issue figured in talks between Wickremesinghe and Chinese Premier Li Keqiang yesterday.
Li said China is willing to work with Sri Lanka to steadily push forward the construction of Colombo Port City, Hambantota Port, and logistics and industrial parks in accordance with the market and business principles. China’s offer came as Sri Lanka is negotiating for a USD 1.1 billion debt swap with Beijing to repay USD 1.4 billion Chinese loan to build Hambantota port which was found unviable. If it works out, Sri Lanka can pay off its USD 1.1 billion debt.China has also resumed work in the USD 1.4 billion Colombo Port city project after the two sides agreed to amend the previous agreement to have Chinese ownership on the section of the land to 99 years.