CASTRIES, St. Lucia (CNA) — President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) addressed the Parliament of St. Lucia ON July 18, touting the mutual benefits of bilateral cooperation and saying there is no concern Taiwan loans could ever become debt traps.
While project loans will come from Taiwanese banks, Tsai said, the work will be contracted out to Saint Lucia’s companies through Taiwan’s Overseas Engineering and Construction Company, meaning Taiwan will hire local workers.
“This model of cooperation ensures that both our peoples can participate and reap the benefits. There will be no issue of ‘debt traps,’ unlike some other cooperation models,” she said, adding that she believes in mutually beneficial projects rooted in strong communication and collaboration.
Tsai’s comment came in the wake of accusations in the West that China is using its Belt and Road Initiative (B.R.I.) to exert control over and trap countries that join the transnational infrastructure investment scheme into debt.
However, Deborah Brautigam, a professor of political economy at Johns Hopkins University of the United States, argues otherwise.
In her piece in the New York Times opinion section April 29, Brautigam said the risks of B.R.I. are often overstated or mischaracterized, citing the findings of Boston University and Johns Hopkins University.
Concluding her Parliamentary address, Tsai said: “Taiwan and Saint Lucia are small countries, and we both face challenges brought about by geography, access to resources, and climate change. Yet we have both walked the long road to democratization.”
Later in the day, Tsai and St. Lucian Prime Minister Allen Chastanet attended the launch of the second phase of the Government Island-wide Network and the Gros Islet Human Resource Development Centre, two projects that are being implemented in cooperation with Taiwan.
In her remarks at the launch ceremony, Tsai said since 2015 Taiwan and St. Lucia have cooperated on Internet infrastructure.
Since then, she said, 63 wireless Internet hotspots have been installed in 33 locations in five regions of the Caribbean country.
At the inauguration ceremony for the Gros Islet Human Resource Development Centre, Tsai said the center will serve as a focal point for education, local culture and tourism promotion.
The launch of the center, Tsai said, is under the Community Development Project the two nations have been working on since 2007.
The project has created 25,000 job opportunities and completed more than 2,400 public infrastructure programs, including flood control systems, drainage works and pedestrian paths, she said.
In turn, Chastanet expressed thanks to Taiwan for its support and assistance with various projects.
Tsai is scheduled to depart St. Lucia around 10 a.m. Friday, ending her state visit to Taiwan’s four diplomatic allies in the region. She will fly to Denver for a two-night visit before returning to Taiwan on July 22 (Taipei time).
By Wen Kuei-hsiang and Chung Yu-chen