China says Maldives is not ‘mired in a Chinese debt trap’

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi shakes hands with Maldives Foreign Minister Abdulla Shahid at the Diaoyutai State Guesthouse in Beijing on September 20, 2019. (File/AFP)
Updated 21 September 2019

China says Maldives is not ‘mired in a Chinese debt trap’

  • The ruling Maldivian Democratic Party fears the debts to China could run as high as $3 billion
  • The Indian Ocean island chain has been caught in a battle for influence between India and China

BEIJING: The Maldives are not “mired in a Chinese debt trap,” the Chinese government’s top diplomat told the visiting Maldivian foreign minister, amid fears in the Indian Ocean country of debts as high as $3 billion owing to Beijing.

The Indian Ocean island chain has been caught in a battle for influence between India and China, which invested millions of dollars during the rule of the pro-China former leader Abdulla Yameen as part of China’s Belt and Road plan, designed to improve its global trade reach.

The ruling Maldivian Democratic Party, which won a landslide in the archipelago’s parliamentary election in April, fears the debts to China could run as high as $3 billion and risk sinking the economy.

Meeting Maldivian Foreign Minister Abdulla Shahid in Beijing, Chinese State Councillor Wang Yi said China’s cooperation with the Maldives would not be affected by the change of government, China’s foreign ministry said in a statement late on Friday.

“China’s cooperation with the Maldives aims to promote the well-being of the Maldivian people, without political intentions and without seeking geopolitical interests,” the ministry cited Wang as saying.

China provides what help it can to the Maldives without attaching political preconditions, and does not interfere in the its internal affairs, Wang added.

“It is totally without basis to say that ‘the Maldives is mired in a Chinese debt trap’,” he said. The Chinese statement quoted Shahid as saying no country in the world had been as generous to helping the Maldives, pointing to the building of infrastructure and “provision of a large amount of aid and loans.”

“In this regard, there is absolutely no so-called ‘debt trap’. To say that is complete nonsense.” China has been stung by criticism, mostly from Western countries, that it loads up poor, developing nations with unsustainable debt they have no hope of paying back, and that it is seeking to use this to leverage political influence.

China says its loans are much welcomed and much needed, and points out that it provides them with no political pre-conditions and gives funds to places that Western donors ignore.


Afghan poll body misses announcing crucial presidential initial vote

Updated 19 October 2019

Afghan poll body misses announcing crucial presidential initial vote

  • The chief of the country’s Independent Election Commission (IEC), blamed technical reasons for missing the timetable
  • She said the results would be announced “as soon as possible”

KABUL: Afghanistan’s election commission conceded its failure to release initial presidential poll results set for Saturday and gave no new deadline for the vote which was marred by Taliban attacks and irregularities.
The presidential poll on Sept. 28 saw the lowest turnout of any elections in Afghanistan since the Taliban’s ousting.
Hawa Alam Nuristani, the chief of the country’s Independent Election Commission (IEC), blamed technical reasons, particularly slowness in entering data on to the server, for missing the timetable.
“Regrettably, the commission due to technical issues and for the sake of transparency could not announce the presidential election initial poll results,” she said in a brief announcement.
Without naming any camp, Nuristani also said: “A number of observers of election sides (camps) illegally are disrupting the process of elections.” She did not elaborate.
Nuristani said the results would be announced “as soon as possible,” while earlier in the day two IEC members said privately that the delay would take up to a week.
The delay is another blow for the vote that has been twice delayed due to the government’s mismanagement and meetings between the US and the Taliban, which eventually collapsed last month after President Donald Trump declared the talks “dead.”
It further adds to political instability in Afghanistan, which has seen decades of conflict and foreign intervention and faced ethnic divides in recent years.
Both front-runners, President Ashraf Ghani and the country’s chief executive, Dr. Abdullah Abdullah, have said that they expect to win.
The pair have been sharing power in Afghanistan as part of a US-brokered deal following the fraudulent polls of 2014.
The IEC has invalidated more than 500,000 votes because they were not conducted through biometric devices, bought for the vote from overseas to minimize the level of cheating in last month’s polls.
Officials of the commission said that nearly 1.8 million votes were considered clean and it was not clear what sort of impact the turnout would have on the legitimacy of the polls and the future government, whose main task will be to resume stalled peace talks with the Taliban.
They said that the slowness of data entry on to the server was one of the technical reasons for the delay in releasing initial poll results.
Yousuf Rashid, a senior official from an election watchdog group, described the delay as a “weakness of mismanagement,” while several lawmakers chided IEC for poor performance.
Abdul Satar Saadat, a former senior leader of an electoral body, told Arab News: “The delay showed IEC’s focus was on transparency” and that should be regarded as a sign that it took the issue of discarding fraudulent votes seriously.