By Lerato Matheka
Lesotho has had its two debts of the construction of the ’Manthabiseng National Convention Center and the New Parliament Building costs worth more than M150 million written-off by the People’s Republic of China.
This write-off comes after China resort to bailing out African countries of their interest-free loans which were meant to be paid from the beginning of 2018.
Prime Minister Thomas Thabane said the President of the People’s Republic of China Xi Jinping made the announcement last week during the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC).
“President Xi Jinping announced that the government of China has set aside USD 60 billion which will help African countries on development for a period of three years from 2019-2021.
“The fund is divided into different segments: USD15 billion as interest free loans; USD20 billion as long-term; USD 10 billion set aside a special fund to help towards development; USD USD5 billion to help Africa to export its products to China; USD 10 billion meant to help Chinese national to invest and create employment in African countries,” Thabane said.
He added that the government of China during the summit launched eight development initiatives namely: Implementation of big trading projects; improved trade between Africa and China; Protection of the environment; road infrastructure; electricity generation; improved agriculture and improved health.
“China also wrote-off interest-free hanging loans by African countries which were supposed to be paid beginning of 2018,” said Thabane.
The cancellation of debts by China should according to Development Planning Minister Tlohelang Aumane be taken as a signal from the Chinese government that it does not want African developments to be stifled by debt burden.
“You will be aware that the debts being canceled are interest-free loans and those are loans which come from the government of China while other loans are from the banks.
“The interest-free loans that Lesotho had received from the government of China were the loans which were used for parliament building and the Convention Centre. So those could be the loans that could benefit Lesotho,” Aumane said.
On return from his trip, Thabane reported a gift of M300 million from the President Jinping which Aumane said has not been allocated for any development.
“You will be aware that this is the second gift from the President of China to our country.
“On the current three-year term, we have been given 800 Million Chinese Yuan which is equivalent to M1.7 billion to build the Maseru district hospital.
“So, this time we have been given M300 million which is yet to be allocated. The government is going to look at qualifying projects and priorities and then make a request for financing,” explained Aumane.
The minister further indicates on the US 60 billion dollars set aside for African countries, the country’s leadership will convene and plan on propriety needs of the country.
Thabane corroborated Aumane’s sentiments adding an instruction to his cabinet to take the fort and work towards implementing projects which would be beneficial to Basotho.
The Premier also called on journalists to scrutinise his administration if there is any foul play during the implementation of China-Africa funded projects.
“This is work in progress and I am instructing all ministers to do their work. I urge you the media to follow us closely and see that we are doing what that money is intended for because then the money has to be allocated to different projects that will improve the lives of the people which is what the money is intended for.
“You are free to really scrutinise what we are doing and I am going to be asking the ministers to be as transparent and accountable in us of the money,” Thabane said.
Lesotho through Thabane’s visit also received rice donations to the tune of M50 million for hunger alleviation programs intended to mitigate the impact of poor grain harvests.
Thabane also revealed that President Jinping emphasized his government’s commitment to implement public projects agreed upon between Lesotho and China which includes the construction of the Mpiti-Sehlaba-Thebe road and the Maseru District hospital.
By Lerato Matheka