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EDITORIAL: Let’s not miss point with Chinese loan


EDITORIAL: Let’s not miss point with Chinese loan

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THE FREUNDEL STUART ADMINISTRATION was ecstatic to have received a US$170 million loan from the Chinese to help finance the redevelopment of Sam Lord’s Castle. This is understandable given the magnitude of the project, the potential benefits to a sluggish economy, and the ability to secure the loan at good rates despite the island’s poor credit rating.

This loan from the Export-Import Bank of China speaks to the efforts by Beijing to cement its footprint across the Caribbean for geopolitical reasons. Taiwan, which China regards as a renegade province, gets much of its support from English-speaking Caribbean islands. More important, the Caribbean is strategically located for China to build its presence in United States’ backyard.

There are other ways China’s Export-Import Bank can help. The expansion of Grantley Adams International Airport would be a logical choice as well as the proposed cruise terminal at the Bridgetown Port.

The redevelopment of Sam Lord’s Castle and its management by the international Wyndham Hotel chain should result in more passengers flying into the island. The airport must effectively handle large numbers of passengers. The country urgently needs to be able to accommodate the new super cruise liners already coming here away from the cargo facility.

While China has become important to the world economy for decades, the country is now wielding its financial might with the confidence and purpose of a global superpower. With the centre of financial gravity shifting, Beijing is looking not simply to invest its vast wealth in places such as Barbados for any altruistic reason, but to get into ventures which will help with such long-term objectives as promoting its currency. Barbados offers such opportunities through this type of foreign direct investment.

However, in Government’s quest to get this investment, we hope the Stuart administration has done the necessary due diligence. They must appreciate that the Sam Lord’s project must not become an unregulated one. There must be rigid standards – from environment protection of the beach and coastline, to the use of alternate energy. Equally, the public must know up front how many Barbadians will gain jobs at all levels in the project.

We cannot ignore the history of Chinese-funded projects in Barbados, where we have seen an influx of workers to do work which many Barbadians are competent and skilled to do. Our economy at this time needs job creation.

The financing must also not stifle our voice to speak out against any breaches by Beijing, whether in relation to human rights or any unwillingness to institute measures to help combat climate change.

This loan and the project must not be simply tied to just short-term economic benefits and the obvious political gains which may accrue. Indeed, it must not be mandarin to Barbadians.