COLOMBO: China announced on Sunday that it was providing a $90 million grant to Sri Lanka, two days after the island nation’s president sought help from a visiting Chinese delegation in disproving a perception that China-funded megaprojects are “debt traps.”
Calling the financial assistance a “timely grant,” the Chinese Embassy in Colombo said that it would be used for medical care, education and water supplies in Sri Lanka’s rural areas and that it would “contribute to the well-being of (Sri Lankans) in a post-COVID era.”
The announcement follows a visit to the Indian Ocean island nation on Friday by a Chinese delegation led by Yang Jiechi, a Communist Party Politburo member and a former foreign minister.
During talks with Yang, Sri Lankan President Gotabhaya Rajapaksa asked China to help him in disproving a perception that China-funded megaprojects are “debt traps” aimed at gaining influence in local affairs.
China considers Sri Lanka to be a critical link in its massive “Belt and Road” global infrastructure building initiative and has provided billions of dollars in loans for Sri Lankan projects over the past decade. The projects include a seaport, airport, port city, highways and power stations.
In 2017, Sri Lanka leased out a Chinese-built port located near busy shipping routes to a Chinese company for 99 years to recover from the heavy burden of repaying the Chinese loan the country received to build it.
The facility is part of Beijing’s plan for a line of ports stretching from Chinese waters to the Persian Gulf. China has also agreed to provide a $989 million loan to Sri Lanka to build an expressway that will connect its tea-growing central region to the Chinese-run seaport.
China expanded its footprint in Sri Lanka during the leadership of former President Mahinda Rajapaksa, the older brother of the current leader.