Colombo seeks new funding sources in shift away from ally Beijing

Updated 16 July 2015

Colombo seeks new funding sources in shift away from ally Beijing

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka: Sri Lanka is seeking cheaper funding sources to replace billions of dollars in debt from Chinese banks, government officials said, as the six-month-old government distances itself from Beijing weeks before a general election.
The government is seeking to consolidate its power in the Aug. 17 vote after reformer Maithripala Sirisena was elected president in January. The pro-China leader he ousted — Mahinda Rajapaksa — is staging a comeback bid.
Sirisena had suspended most Chinese-backed infrastructure projects started under Rajapaksa, who has denied allegations of corruption and overpricing in contract awards.
Sirisena’s reformist coalition is in talks to replace about 70 percent of the more than $5 billion in debt from Chinese lenders with loans at cheaper interest rates and longer durations from other sources, two finance ministry officials involved in the negotiations said. The move follows failed government efforts to negotiate more favorable terms with the Chinese banks, and the finance ministry is looking at options including borrowing from lenders in Japan, the United States or Europe, a top government official said.
“Money is there at a cheaper rate and for a longer tenure,” he said.
Sri Lanka has sought to pursue a more global foreign policy since the new government was formed, breaking with the previous pursuit of close ties with China.
Finance Minister Ravi Karunanayake has been exploring ways his nation could borrow at lower rates after concluding from a trip to Japan this month that loans could be obtained for between 0.1 percent and 0.2 percent, a senior finance ministry official said.
Sri Lanka’s government has 16 ongoing Chinese-backed infrastructure projects which depend on $4 billion in borrowing from the Export-Import Bank of China (Exim Bank) and the rates of interest are between 2.5 percent and 9 percent, finance ministry data shows.
Chinese officials have said the rates of interest are only 2 percent. But the data shows there are extra fees that add to cost the servicing the loan.

Indonesian president ‘honored’ to have UAE street named after him

Updated 22 October 2020

Indonesian president ‘honored’ to have UAE street named after him

  • Abu Dhabi’s Al-Ma’arid Street renamed President Joko Widodo Street

JAKARTA: Indonesian President Joko Widodo on Tuesday said it was “an honor” for him and his country that a street in the UAE capital had been named after him.

Al-Ma’arid Street, one of Abu Dhabi’s key roads, was on Monday renamed President Joko Widodo Street during a ceremony that coincided with the first anniversary of the Indonesian leader’s inauguration for a second term in office.

Writing on social media, Widodo said: “It is a recognition and an honor, not only for me, but for Indonesia.” He also expressed hope that the two countries’ relations would be “stronger, mutually strengthening, and beneficial for the people of the United Arab Emirates and Indonesia.”

Indonesia’s ambassador to the UAE, Husin Bagis, told Arab News: “The initiative to rename the street after President Joko Widodo came from His Highness (Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al-Nahyan), who also presided over the street renaming ceremony on the spot.”

The envoy said that the street was near to the future location of the Indonesian Embassy compound, which was currently under construction.

According to UAE news agency WAM, the crown prince has also directed officials to build a mosque named after Widodo, in Abu Dhabi’s Diplomatic Area, in recognition of the Indonesian president’s close friendship with the UAE and his efforts to strengthen the relationship.

Indonesia-UAE relations have grown closer since Widodo’s visit to Abu Dhabi in January, during which he secured investment projects worth $22.9 billion in what has officially been described as the biggest trade deal in the country’s history. The visit was to reciprocate the crown prince’s trip to Indonesia in July 2019.

Recent cooperation agreements between the two countries have included plans for the construction of a mosque on a plot of land in Widodo’s hometown of Solo in Central Java.

The mosque will be a replica of Abu Dhabi’s Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque and serve as an Islamic center offering training for clerics. A groundbreaking ceremony is slated to take place in December.

Widodo is the latest Indonesian leader to be celebrated through an honorific street name in a foreign country. In Rabat, Morocco’s capital, Avenue Sukarno was named after Indonesia’s first president, while Mohammed Hatta Street in Haarlem, the Netherlands, recognizes the Southeast Asian country’s first vice president. Sukarno and Hatta are considered the fathers of Indonesia’s independence.

The name of the country’s third president, B. J. Habibie, appears on a bridge in Dili, the capital of East Timor, in honor of his decision to hold a referendum there which allowed East Timor to secede from Indonesia.