Aid to Sri Lanka shows depth of ties

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Analysts and officials said China’s willingness to help Sri Lanka during the country’s economic difficulties not only reflects the depth of their strategic cooperative partnership, but also highlights efforts for common and sustainable development.

A batch of COVID-19 vaccines donated by China arrives at Bandaranaike International Airport in Colombo, Sri Lanka on August 28, 2021. [Photo/Xinhua]

In a phone call with Sri Lankan Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa on Friday, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang said China stands ready to provide, within its capacity, any assistance the country urgently needs. to improve the well-being of the population. Li expressed concern for Sri Lanka during its current bout of economic hardship.

Sirimal Abeyratne, an economics professor at the University of Colombo, said Sri Lanka needed help from many quarters to deal with the financial crisis.

Due to the shortage of foreign exchange after years of declining state revenues, compounded by the pandemic and rising inflation in recent months, Sri Lanka is facing not only economic difficulties, but also difficulties in importing medicine and fuel, said Kelum Shivantha, editor-in-chief. head of the Sri Lanka Mirror.

China has always been Sri Lanka’s most reliable friend and partner, Eastern Province Governor Anuradha Yahampath told Chinese Ambassador to Sri Lanka Qi Zhenhong on Sunday.

Qi briefed the governor on the received humanitarian aid donated by Chinese central and local governments as well as poverty alleviation societies and the Red Cross. Yunnan province in southern China, in particular, is sending food parcels to eastern Sri Lanka to help 10,000 poor households.

Wang Se, assistant researcher at the Institute of South Asian Studies of the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations, said that although China also faces challenges, its offer of aid to Sri Lanka embodies its commitment to action. as a responsible major country and to strive for common development. and the sustainable development envisioned by Chinese President Xi Jinping’s Global Development Initiative.

Shivantha said it is impressive to see that over the decades, China has provided assistance to Sri Lanka’s economic development in many ways, while Sri Lanka has also helped China many times.

Accusations debunked

Responding to questions from local media on Monday, Qi noted that contrary to some media’s accusations that Chinese funding is creating a “debt trap” for countries like Sri Lanka, China is neither the only creditor nor the largest creditor of the island country. And its loans are mainly used for economic development and infrastructure to help the nation get out of a “development trap”.

The Ambassador pointed out that the government departments of the two countries are in communication on Sri Lanka’s funding needs.

Responding to a question, he noted that between July 2021 and January, China had supplied 730,000 tons of fuel to the Ceylon Petroleum Corporation, with payments of $390 million still to be made.

The Sri Lankan government decided last week to suspend repayment of all debts for a limited period.

Sri Lankan Finance Minister Ali Sabry traveled to Washington last week for talks with the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, among other entities.

Anne-Marie Gulde-Wolf, acting director of the IMF’s Asia and Pacific department, told an online press conference on Tuesday that Sri Lanka needed to tighten monetary policy, raise taxes and adopt flexible exchange rates. to meet his debts. “We see a need for flexible exchange rates,” she said, as quoted by Reuters.

Trust must be built between the IMF and Sri Lanka, Abeyratne noted, and Sri Lanka must also depend on support from friendly countries like China.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said last week that China has always supported Sri Lanka’s socio-economic development. “We will offer support and assistance to the best of our abilities to help Sri Lanka reinvigorate its economy and improve people’s livelihoods.”

Wang Se said Sri Lanka’s new cabinet was facing protests. The Sri Lanka Mirror has reported on a draft no-confidence motion against the prime minister.

Qi told reporters that no matter how the global and domestic situation develops, China will always be a faithful friend and offer support to Sri Lanka.

Shivantha said China was the biggest contributor to Sri Lanka’s battle against the pandemic. According to Qi, China has provided 26 million doses of vaccines, along with medical supplies and $2.8 billion in financial aid since the island’s COVID-19 outbreak.

Xinhua contributed to the story.

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