BEIJING, Oct. 11, 2023 /PRNewswire/ — “China did not come to us with money; instead, we went to China for funding,” Dr. Palitha Kohona, the former Sri Lankan ambassador to China said in an interview. “I think we have to separate propaganda from reality. Sri Lanka did not fall into a [debt] trap.”
The Hambantota Port, located on Sri Lanka’s southern coast, is near one of the world’s busiest shipping lanes, through which an estimated 35,000 vessels pass annually. As a key collaboration between China and Sri Lanka under the Belt and Road Initiative, the port formally commenced operations in December 2017.
Dr. Kohona explained that when planning the port’s construction, the Sri Lankan government initially sought out some Western investors and multilateral organizations. Yet, given the recent cessation of domestic unrest in Sri Lanka at that time, these entities showed hesitance in financing the endeavor. After facing challenges in obtaining funds, the government turned to China. Ultimately, China extended a supportive hand, providing substantial investment. At that juncture, Sri Lanka’s economic standing was solid, ensuring timely repayments. In light of the circumstances, Dr. Kohona contends that the so-called “debt trap” narrative is starkly overstated.
Reflecting on the importance of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) to Sri Lanka, Dr. Kohona observed that the Initiative aids developing countries in achieving higher level of growth. Investments stemming from the Initiative have already enabled some countries to realign their economic trajectories, paving the way for new highways, ports, bridges and airports, as well as spurring growth in other sectors. “So, I think Sri Lanka can expect to benefit considerably from further BRI investments,” Dr. Kohona continued. “Maybe BRI-related investments will also help Sri Lanka to extricate itself from the massive financial crisis that it is facing.”
This year marks the 10th anniversary of launch of the Belt and Road Initiative. Throughout its duration, it has matured into a globally recognized public good and a platform for international collaboration. The third Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation is set to convene in Beijing this October.
In a series of multilingual interviews, My China Eye, produced by China.org.cn, fifteen ambassadors to China from the Belt and Road partners talk about the tangible benefits that the Initiative has brought to their countries. Stay tuned for the updates!
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