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September 8, 2018

Ethiopia bags China debt deal, others wait (The East African)

By Allan Olingo 

From the article: 

Ethiopia became the first country on the continent to have its Chinese debts restructured even as it became apparent that several other countries were waiting for loan concessions to avert distress.

On Thursday, Ethiopia announced that China had agreed to restructure some of its loans, including the one for the $4 billion railway linking its capital Addis Ababa with Djibouti. 

... 

It is understood that Djibouti could also be on the way to enjoying reprieve, given that its debts from Beijing were already choking it.

The country has seen its debt to GDP ratio raise 88 per cent, the latest report from Centre for Global Development shows, even as it ramps up its port infrastructure investment already running into billions of dollars.

During the summit, some African countries got a reprieve when Beijing decided to write off interest on some of their loans even as China said it was not to blame for the debt distress some of these countries found themselves in.

 
Read the full article here.

 

September 7, 2018

Opinion: Trade War Opens Possibilities for Africa-China Relations (Caixin)

By Gyude Moore 

From the article: 

Between the year 2000, when the first Forum on China-African Cooperation (FOCAC) summit was held, up to the most recent summit, China has moved from a bit player in Africa’s economy to its largest trading partner, surpassing the United States in 2009. China-Africa trade has ballooned from $10.5 billion in 2000 to over $200 billion this year. The most recent edition of China’s flagship summit around its Africa policy has come and gone and with it an investment, loan and grant package of $60 billion. The 2018 FOCAC summit also appears to have had the highest participation for such a gathering, with about 48 African heads of state and government participating, but the summit also attracted significant attention and scrutiny of the China-Africa relationship — both from the domestic Chinese audience and the international one.

This is an opportunity for the relationship to move to the next level. The sheer volume of trade and investment flows cannot be the only measure of the success of the relationship. This FOCAC can and should be a departure point. 

Read the full article here.

 

September 7, 2018

Why Asia and Africa hold different views of China (Asia Times)

By Xuan Loc Doan 

From the article: 

During a state visit to China last month, Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad warned against what he called “a new version of colonialism,” which was seen as a rebuke to China’s increasing economic and political dominance in the region.

The accusation that China is pursuing neo-colonialism and debt diplomacy, especially through its global trade and infrastructure projects under the trillion-dollar Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), has been made by others. 

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Pakistan, another South Asian nation, is also faced with the same dilemma as there are question marks over its ability to repay colossal Chinese loans related to the $62-billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), another key component of China’s BRI. In fact, according to the Center for Global Development, it is one of the eight most vulnerable to debt distress due to BRI-related financing. 

Read the full article here

 

September 6, 2018

R.I.P. Chinese Exceptionalism? (Project Syndicate)

By Arvind Subramanian, Josh Felman 

From the article: 

From Argentina to Turkey and from South Africa to Indonesia, emerging markets are once again being roiled by financial turbulence. But let us not lose sight of the biggest and potentially most problematic of them all: China. 

Over the past few decades, China’s growth has appeared to violate certain fundamental laws of economics. For example, Stein’s Law holds that if something cannot go on forever, it will stop. Yet China’s debt keeps on rising. 

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The problem is that Mercantilism 2.0 is now under attack, both politically and economically. Politically, recipients of Chinese loans – from Sri Lanka to Malaysia to Myanmar – have been expressing objections to the BRI and its odor of neo-imperialism. Economically, the onerous terms of BRI financing have resulted in alarming debt build-ups in at least eight countries, according to the Center for Global Development. 

Read the full article here

 

September 6, 2018

Will Supreme Court ruling on Section 377 change India’s social attitude? (Hindustan Times)

By Dhrubo Jyoti, Roshan Kishore 

From the full article: 

Urvi was in Class 6 when she realised she didn’t identify with the gender assigned to her at birth. But confusion and fear of abuse and humiliation stopped her from telling her mother. She had lost her father early and the only other person she could turn to was her sister. “She was not alright with my gender identity,” says the 21-year-old engineering student, who was a part of the petitions against Section 377 in the Supreme Court.

Thursday brought her cheer. “I called my sister, and she had seen the news, and read articles, and said, ‘I am so happy for you people’; I think she was convinced by my academic achievements,” adds Urvi, who has received two prestigious national science fellowships and used a different name in the petition. 

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But how does a change in law help in shifting social attitudes? A 2017 study by Charles Kenny and Dev Patel at the Centre for Global Development found that in the last three decades, the proportion of the world that report they do not want to live next to a gay or lesbian individual has dropped by about 10 percentage points. Over the same period, more than 50 countries have legalised same sex relationships. This suggests both that attitudes inform legal change but also that policymakers can shift public opinion about beliefs through legal reform. 

Read the article here

 

September 6, 2018

Ignore the headlines - the world is getting better (Beme News/CNN)

Life expectancy is up. Crime is down. More people are literate than ever before. Less people are in extreme poverty. In short – the world is getting better. But, the news media tells a much bleaker story. Is negativity the media’s real bias, and has it distorted our view of the world?

Charles Kenny’s insight is discussed by Beme News host, Lou Foglia, on the show.

Watch here.

 

September 6, 2018

China Offers Debt Relief, But Most African Countries Borrow Elsewhere (Voice of America)

By Salem Solomon 

From the article: 

WASHINGTON — Chinese President Xi Jinping promised Monday to cancel debt for some of Africa’s least-developed countries.

Erasing debt tied to interest-free loans has long been a part of China’s policies in Africa. But the announcement, made at Xi’s opening speech at the 2018 Forum on China-Africa Cooperation, or FOCAC, comes amid growing concern over China’s lending practices, which some have deemed “debt-trap diplomacy.” 

Yet Chinese loans make up just a small portion of Africa’s debt, W. Gyude Moore, a visiting fellow at the Center for Global Development, told VOA. Moore is Liberia’s former minister of public works and focuses on infrastructure financing in Africa. 

Read the full article here

 

September 6, 2018

The perils of China’s “debt-trap diplomacy” (The Economist)

By The Economist 

From the article: 

In August, three months after his opposition coalition trounced the Malaysian party that had ruled since independence, Mahathir Mohamad, the country’s 93-year-old new prime minister, travelled to Beijing. His aim was to tell President Xi Jinping that his country was now the Malaysia that can say no.

Dr. Mahathir’s predecessor, Najib Razak, had hewed close to China. His loss at the polls resulted more than anything from the stench of corruption within his ruling United Malays National Organisation (UMNO). But his chumminess with China was also a factor. The two issues were entwined.

During Mr. Najib’s rule, huge holes appeared in the finances of a state investment vehicle, 1MDB, which Mr. Najib chaired. America’s Justice Department estimates that $4.5bn was stolen from the fund by insiders. (Around the same time, nearly $700m turned up in Mr. Najib’s own bank accounts.) As 1MDB teetered, Chinese state entities stepped in, taking stakes in 1MDB ventures.

... 

China is not used to recipients of its largesse challenging the terms on which it is offered. Yet growing numbers of them are struggling with debts to Chinese entities taken on to fund Chinese-staffed projects. The Centre for Global Development in Washington reckons that eight belt-and-road countries are at “particular risk of debt distress”, among them ones that border on China: Laos, Mongolia and Pakistan. That is why Dr. Mahathir’s progress in disentangling his country from Chinese-funded ventures is being closely watched.

Read the full article here

 

September 6, 2018

Djibouti eager to be a key link in China's Belt and Road (Nikkei Asian Review)

By Shinya Oshino 

From the article: 

TOKYO -- The foreign minister of Djibouti said the East African country intends to help promote China's Belt and Road Initiative, but is also cautious about overreliance on China in light of Djibouti's ballooning debts linked to Chinese investment. 

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"We need sophisticated infrastructure. The only country that provides financing is China," [Mahmoud Ali] Youssouf said of his country's dependence on Beijing.

That dependence is seen most clearly in Djibouti's swelling foreign debt, 80% of which was owed to China in 2016, according to the Center for Global Development, a U.S. think tank. World Bank figures show that Djibouti's external debt was equal to 86% of its GDP in 2017. 

Read the full article here

 

September 5, 2018

World Health Organization: After Ebola Death in City, ‘No One Should Be Sleeping Well Tonight’ (Huffington Post)

By Lauren Weber 

From the article: 

The Democratic Republic of Congo has confirmed its first Ebola death in the eastern city of Butembo, a trade hub with Uganda that is home to almost a million people. This first urban death, combined with ongoing violence in the northeastern outbreak area in DRC and some community resistance, is worrying experts that the slowing outbreak could still escalate.

Having already killed 87 people, this outbreak is close to becoming the eighth-largest Ebola outbreak in history. While officials have been pleased with the decreasing pace of cases and a successful vaccination and contact tracing campaign, this new case in an urban setting is worrisome, Peter Salama, the World Health Organization’s emergency response chief, told HuffPost. 

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Jeremy Konyndyk, a senior policy fellow for the Washington-based Center for Global Development who previously led parts of the 2014 Ebola response for the Obama administration, pointed to those potential cases as a major concern.

“We had a phase during 2014 in West Africa where, likewise, case counts were declining and it appeared things had turned a corner. But, in fact, there was significant spread that just wasn’t being seen, and subsequently allowed the later explosion.” More than 11,300 people were killed in the 2014-2016 West Africa outbreak, which cost the world billions and infected 28,600.

Read the full article here

 

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