CARICOM boss plays down China fears in Region
“What is this thing about China…I wonder if it is not Xenophobia,” - Ambassador Irwin La Rocque
By Gary Eleazar
Xenophobia is said to be “an unreasonable fear or hatred of foreigners or strangers, or of that which is foreign or strange” and the Caribbean Community (CARICOM)’s Secretary General, Ambassador Irwin La Rocque, is wondering if this is the case with China and the people of the Caribbean.
La Rocque questioned, “What is this thing about China…I wonder if it is not Xenophobia.”
In recent weeks and months, Chinese companies looking to do business in the region, have been coming under increasing fire for allegations of corruption and questionable practices, but according to La Rocque, this is not something that his Secretariat is even addressing at the moment.
“The Secretariat is not looking at any of these issues…these issues are allegations…it is not part of what we do,” La Rocque emphasized.
The CARICOM Secretary General was speaking exclusively with Kaieteur News following the opening ceremony of the 23rd COHSOD (Council for Human and Social Development) Meeting being held at the Princess International Hotel.
According to La Rocque, “China made available a line of credit and that is what is obtained. It’s not an issue on the Regional agenda.”
La Rocque even sought to question if the issues related to the Chinese are even legitimate saying that “I am not even sure if it’s a matter at all…I have been reading about it, but it is not an issue on the agenda.”
Asked about fears of increased clout in the region as a result of the heavy finances being made available by China, Ambassador La Rocque said, “It always amazes me when I get that question. Nowhere has it been said when other countries were putting in a lot of money into our region that we will be swayed by them. A lot of countries have been putting money into our region and nobody is raising an outcry about them trying to persuade us one way or another. I’ll leave it at that.”
In the Guyana context, the nation is still trying to assimilate news of a contract to the tune of some US$150M for the expansion of the Cheddi Jagan International Airport.
News of this broke in Jamaica, but the local Public Works Minister had denied secrecy and said that the information was being kept confidential.
It was explained that a logistical breakdown saw the information being published in the Jamaica media before Guyanese could have been briefed.
Guyana still awaits the US$141M loan from China’s Exim Bank and only recently the company, China Harbour Engineering Corporation (CHEC) had to defend itself again, over allegations of corruption.
There are also, several questions still lingering over the state-of-the-art, Skeldon Sugar Factory, built by Chinese. To date the factory has never operated at full capacity and it is still plagued by a plethora of defects.
Over in Antigua and Barbuda there is now a controversy erupting over the terms and conditions of a US$47M project there.
In Jamaica, too, the very company that has inked a contract with the Guyanese authorities also came under fire by that country’s Contractor General.