Seven months since President of China Xi Jinping committed some US$3 billion to the Caribbean region the Government of Guyana is yet to submit proposals for funding and these are only now being considered, said Minister of Finance Dr Ashni Singh.
At a meeting in Trinidad in May this year, President Xi pledged a sum of US$1.5 billion as a grant for development and US$1.5 billion as loans for infrastructure projects to countries of the region. President Donald Ramotar attended the meeting, along with Minister of Finance Dr Ashni Singh and Minister of Foreign Affairs Carolyn Rodrigues-Birkett.
On Friday, Stabroek News asked Minister Singh what the status of Guyana’s application for project funding was and how much of that money was expected to come to the country.
“We will definitely be proposing to the Chinese projects,” he said in response, saying that government had not done so as yet as it has been “reflecting” on the issue. “But they will be development projects in keeping with our national development agenda,” he said.
“I seem to recall it was US$1.5 billion of concessional money and US$1.5 billion for infrastructural projects. I don’t think that there was a country allocation as such. It is an allocation for the region and various countries in the region will be putting in applications for projects,” he said.
The minister noted that there has been no indication from the Chinese Government as to how much an individual country may receive. “The allocation was not disaggregated to national envelopes. It is a regional envelope and there is absolutely no indication that what countries may receive. But I rather suspect that the Chinese will not approve all for one country or two countries,” he said. “I don’t think that they started out with a preconceived allocation,” he said. The Trinidad Express quoted Chinese Ambassa-dor to Trinidad Huang Xingyuan as saying that the countries with the best projects would benefit from the funding. Further, that publication quoted the Chinese President as saying that only Caribbean countries that supported that People’s Republic of China’s ‘One China’ policy will benefit from the US$3 billion.
The countries that support the ‘One China’ policy are Trinidad and Tobago, Jamaica, Suriname, Montserrat, Guyana, Barbados, The Bahamas, Grenada, Dominica, and Antigua and Barbuda. These countries support the ‘One China’ policy, in which the People’s Republic of China does not recognise a separate entity called the Republic of China which administers Taiwan.
Foreign Minister Carolyn Rodrigues-Birkett, who along with Minister Singh accompanied President Donald Ramotar to Trinidad for the visit of the Chinese President, had told this newspaper that the President would meet with his ministers to decide which proposals to submit. She also told this newspaper that she had sought clarity from Chinese Ambassador in Guyana Zhang Limin about the nature of the funding – whether or not the grants are concessional.
While countries in the Caribbean welcome the grants and loans from China, observers remain sceptical about the conditions that countries may have to subscribe to in order to access the funds. Those observers and commenters suspect that infrastructural projects for which the money is accessed will have to use Chinese companies in the construction and in addition to this Chinese labour, not unlike the arrangement for the Marriott Hotel construction.