Antigua denies that China is creating a debt trap for it

The content originally appeared on: Antigua News Room
Prime Minister the Hon. Gaston Browne in conversation with President Xi Jinping of the People’s Republic of China.

SOURCE:, Prime Minister of Antigua and Barbuda Gaston Browne deplored the narrative that China is creating a “debt trap,” saying both loans offered by China and China-aided projects within the framework of Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) have truly delivered benefits to Antigua and Barbuda.

Browne made the statement in an exclusive interview with China Media Group (CMG), on sidelines of an official visit to China from Jan 22 to 28 in Beijing.

During Browne’s visit, he met Chinese President Xi Jinping on bilateral ties and issues of mutual concern.

Antigua and Barbuda signed a memorandum of understanding with China on cooperation within the framework of the Silk Road Economic Belt and the Silk Road Initiative in 2018, becoming the first Eastern Caribbean country to sign a Belt and Road cooperation MoU with China.

Within the BRI framework, the country has gained access to financial resources that may not have been available through traditional international financial institutions, said Browne.

“What would have happened during the last two decades is that Antigua and Barbuda have got funding, concessional funding, funding that ordinarily we could not access through the World Bank or the IMF and even on better terms, so the detractors of the PRC (People’s Republic of China) speak about the ‘debt trap’. I can tell you that is certainly not true,” he said.

Describing China as the “most benevolent country on the planet,” the prime minister expressed appreciation from Antigua and Barbuda for China’s assistance in improving infrastructure in his country.

“And in the case of Antigua and Barbuda, if it wasn’t for the concessional loans from the People’s Republic of China, as well as the various assistance that we receive, we would not have been able to successfully pursue a number of projects. So for example, the rebuilding of our airport, the airport terminal, rebuilding of a seaport facility or cargo port. The total funding we’ve in the region about… The People’s Republic of China is the most benevolent country on the planet. And that President Xi in terms of his whole philosophical outlook of a shared future, is extremely commendable. I mean a very noble vision in which he is delivering in very tangible ways in which these developing countries are benefiting in tangible ways,” Browne said.

The renovation and expansion of Saint. John’s Harbor, a BRI project, was completed in September, 2022.

The new port is able to host multiple container ships and cruise ships simultaneously. It is in transformation into a massive transport hub for the region.

With the completion of the project, Antigua and Barbuda has the largest passenger and cargo terminal in the eastern Caribbean region. With a total area of about 12,000 square meters, the harbor can accommodate two 10,000-ton ships at the same time, and it will have an annual capacity of 550,000 tons as the largest shipping hub in the region, providing a new source of growth for the country’s economy.

Launched on January 15, 2018, the project was contracted to China Civil Engineering Construction Corp with a concessional loan of 600 million yuan (86.22 million U.S. dollars) issued by the Export-Import Bank of China.

Local people say they hope the project can create more jobs and improve their life.

“Due to the new port that we have right now, we have better innovations, better technology and a better facility, to be honest, that we also have a better way of life,” said Jumane Atanadze, an administrative official at the port.

“I was assigned to the port since [in] August 2019. I think the project that has been happening since then is a good thing for the port, in terms of redefining and primarily upgrading the spaces and basically uplifting the area. And of course, it has brought many benefits for the cargo importation to Antigua and Barbuda,” said Shane Samuel, engineering adviser at the port.

China’s Belt and Road Initiative benefits Antigua and Barbuda: PM

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