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No dispute with China, says Maldives Foreign Minister

REPORT-2-ENG-27-10-2020-Maldives
Foreign Minister Abdulla Shahid (R) with Chinese Ambassador Zhang Lizhong

Maldivian Foreign Minister Abdulla Shahid has stated that the current Maldivian administration has no dispute or conflict with China, and that any wrongdoing in connection to the loans taken from China, if it exists, is by the administration of former Maldivian President Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom.

The former administration had financed a number of mega infrastructure development projects through loans from China. And the opposition at the time, who are currently in power, criticized the decision, alleging it to be a “debt trap”.

In an exclusive interview to Sun last week, Foreign Minister Shahid said that China continues to be a generous bilateral partner to Maldives, and said that the current administration has no dispute with China.

“We don’t have any dispute, enmity or any other conflict of opinion with China,” said Shahid.

Shahid said that there is no conflict between the Chinese administration and President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih’s administration, even in deciding whether the loans from China during the previous administration were utilized properly. He said that China itself did no wrong in connection to the issue, and that the wrong was done by the former administration.

“If a dispute over utilization of loans taken from China for development projects in Maldives exists, the dispute is with the former administration. There is no conflict of opinion between the current administration and Chinese administration if the former administration engaged in corruption in connection to the loans, or in deciding whether loans were utilized correctly or not.  If wrongdoing took place, it was by the former administration. Not the foreign [Chinese] administration. The corruption was by then-President Abdulla Yameen,” he said.

Shahid said that the opposition is promoting allegations of conflict between Maldives and China to divert attention from the corruption and embezzlement that took place during the former administration.

“There’s no need to allege conflicts between Maldives and China to hide the corruption [by the former administration]. But it’s the easy route for an opposition party. When they make such allegations it covers the corruption by [former President] Abdulla Yameen with soil and hides it right?” he said.

The debt accumulated through loans taken from China amounts to USD 1.5 billion. This includes USD 600 million in loans taken directly by the government, while the remaining are loans taken by companies that the government issued sovereign guarantees for.

Shahid said that China is clear on the current Maldivian administration’s policy towards China, and that the Maldivian administration plans on engaging in further cooperation for mutual benefit.

“The reality of the modern world is that, China is the fastest developing, and one of the biggest economies. Therefore, out work will focus on deriving as much benefits from the Chinese economy as possible,” he said.

Shahid said that China is an important country for Maldives in terms of foreign policy, and that China’s support is especially crucial for development of tourism and fisheries sectors.

“30 percent of tourists come from China. We want to develop the tourism sector for the people, and we want to find new markets for the fish caught by our fishermen. We are working to venture into Chinese markets,” he said.