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China blames US for Belt and Road disaster in socialist Sri Lanka

Chinese State Propaganda Journal world times on Wednesday blamed U.S. sanctions on Russia over the war in Ukraine for Sri Lanka’s deepening economic disaster — a disaster greatly exacerbated by the country taking predatory loans from China.

the world times acknowledged Sri Lanka’s loans and enthusiastic participation in the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), a global plan to erode the sovereignty of poor states by offering predatory loans to be used to pay China for infrastructure projects. In Sri Lanka, the government was forced to hand over its critical seaport of Hambantota to the Communist Party in 2017 after defaulting on its prodigious debt to China, and is still struggling to make payments to Beijing.

Nationwide protests have rocked Sri Lanka over the past month as the cost of living soared, hospitals ran out of medicine and canceled surgeries, gas stations ran out of fuel and markets became increasingly empty. Protesters attempted to storm President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s house and have now established a permanent protest camp demanding that he, Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa and all members of the Rajapaksa family in government step down.

As for the Rajapaksa family, Gotabaya and Mahinda are brothers, and 40 other Rajapaksas have held national government positions over the past decade. They have dominated Sri Lankan politics since Mahinda, as president, ended the 26-year war between the government and the Tamil Tiger organization.

Protesters regularly condemn the Rajapaksa oligarchy for overspending, excessive borrowing from China and lack of money to guarantee the supply of basic food and medicine. Sri Lanka being a “democratic socialist” republic, it is Colombo – and not private companies – which is responsible for such purchases. No demonstrations against the government showed significant opposition in the United States, and the opposition movement in no way cited America as a significant player in the crisis.

Rajapaksa’s regime announced this week that it would default on its foreign debts to use the money that would have been used for those payments to buy food and medicine.

the world times made the effort to link the Sri Lankan socialist crisis to Washington and, bizarrely, kyiv, claiming that Russian sanctions had devastated the Sri Lankan economy.

“The Russian-Ukrainian conflict and the economic sanctions imposed by the United States against Russia may have further aggravated the economic situation in Sri Lanka,” the Chinese media said this week. “The worsening economic crisis in the South Asian nation is a typical example of how emerging economies, especially small and vulnerable ones, are suffering the shocks of reckless Western economic sanctions.”

“While the West has claimed that its sanctions are against Russia, they seriously harm the interests of developing economies and could even cause a widespread humanitarian crisis,” the official said. world times claims.

The media outlet added that the Sri Lankan crisis should “serve as a wake-up call for the global economy, especially the developing world, which is exposed to growing external risks from geopolitical turmoil caused by the state-led West. -United”.

“China certainly does not want to see Sri Lanka stuck in an economic crisis and would help wherever it can, especially when it comes to tackling its economic challenges,” he continued. “However, in a broader sense, developing countries, particularly those in the Asia-Pacific region, should step up and work together to avert the risks posed by the toxic policies being pushed by the United States and its Western allies.”

the world times admitted that most objective international observers view the BRI and China’s debt traps as a significant contributor to Sri Lanka’s economic crisis, but called such a sighting “short-sighted”, “unreasonable” and “unfounded”.

“The South Asian nation’s debt composition is very complicated and its outstanding external debt is mainly due to international markets. China is only Sri Lanka’s fourth largest creditor, behind international financial markets, the Asian Development Bank and Japan,” the state propaganda newspaper said. “It is therefore unreasonable and baseless for some forces to make Chinese debt a major cause of Sri Lanka’s economic crisis while turning a blind eye to other major creditors.”

the world times nevertheless acknowledged that Sri Lanka’s Belt and Road efforts were “massive”. However, rather than seeing them as unnecessary expenses, the Chinese outlet insisted that the BRI was “crucial for the country to integrate into the global value chain”.

China’s defense of its relationship with Sri Lanka follows the offer of a $1.2 billion loan in 2009 which directly led to the seizure of the port of Hambantota – a particularly important asset given that the island nation depends on imports of essential supplies. The seizure grants China control of the port for at least 99 years, but potentially up to 198 years. It also follows reports that China is offering to “help” Sri Lanka with another predatory loan, potentially valued at $1.5 billion, according to Reuters.

The permanent protest encampment, now dubbed “Gota Go Gama” for its demand that President Rajapaksa and those close to him all step down, this week turned down an offer from Gotabaya Rajapaksa to meet and discuss their concerns. In a letter to the president on Wednesday, the group notably omitted any reference to America or the war in Russia; his main demand was for the Rajapaksas to leave power.

Sri Lankans demonstrate to demand the resignation of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa in Colombo, Sri Lanka, Monday, April 4, 2022 (AP Photo/Eranga Jayawardena).

“[I]In a letter sent to Rajapaksa, a group of protesters said they were not ready to meet him unless President Gotabaya Rajapaksa resigns and all Rajapaksa members leave the government. DailyMirror reported. “In the second demand, the protesters specifically call on the Prime Minister and all other members of Rajapaksa, namely Chamal Rajapaksa, Basil Rajapaksa, Namal Rajapaksa, Shashindra Rajapaksa and Nipuna Ranawaka to immediately resign from all government positions and also leave the parliament.

Likewise, opposition journalists did not include the Russian war in their complaints about government spending.

“Their [the Rajapaksa family’s] plunder has cost the country dearly,” columnist Vishwamithra wrote in the Colombo Telegraph Wednesday. “[C]the ill-earned omissions of excessive borrowing from China for building and improving the country’s infrastructure is not just a slogan coined by the opposition; it is an authentic expression of a defined set of expenditures undertaken for and on behalf of the land they preside over.

“Since Mahinda came to power in 2005, the spending sprees they engaged in have now come to eat them alive,” Vishwamithra continued. “The fundamentals of balanced budgets have eluded them and instead of those who have committed this mortal sin, it is the country and its people who must suffer the shortages and brutal living conditions.”

Outside of the protest movement, the healthcare worker community has condemned the government for giving China so much money that it can no longer afford medicine – again without reference to the war in China. Ukraine.

“They spent too much on the Chinese [coronavirus] vaccine; three times what the Chinese government has spent on other countries. As such, all of these random and hasty decisions have contributed to the current crisis,” said Government Physician Forum Chairman Dr Rukshan Bellana. shimmer this week.

“A sum of Rs. 61 billion [about $190 million] was allocated for health in the previous budget, but now former Minister of State Prof. Channa Jayasumana is revealing how much of that was spent on health,” said another doctor, the Secretary General of Ceylon Medical Association, Dr. Jayantha Bandara. shimmer. “Now he says there is no money. Compared to other countries, health expenditure per capita in Sri Lanka is almost negligible. Almost all drugs, devices and reagents are imported.

“Almost all reagents are imported. Although we produce gauze and other items, the raw materials are imported. Another 60 drugs are made locally, but again the raw materials are imported,” Bandara observed.

Sri Lanka being a “democratic socialist” state, there is no strong private healthcare system for those who do not belong to the wealthy elite.

The government has denied any concerns over medical supplies.

“There is no acute shortage of medicine and the ministry is managing the problem for the time being,” said Health Minister Keheliya Rambukwella, who abruptly resigned this month along with all other cabinet members who do not. are not Rajapaksas.

On Thursday, the health ministry, now under a different leadership, finally acknowledged the shortages, which relate to both drugs and essential hospital equipment.

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