Chinese concessions on loan repayments still in place, says Minister

Foreign Minister Abdulla Shahid has refuted claims made by Speaker of the Parliament Mohamed Nasheed that the Chinese government has not extended any concessions to the Maldives on loan repayment.

In an interview given to AVAS last week, Minister Shahid said the world's wealthiest nations, the G7 countries made the decision to extend debt relief for vulnerable countries in its bid to support the challenges associated with COVID-19. In this regard, the Chinese government also extended concessions to countries that have borrowed from China, said the minister.

"The Chinese government extended concessions to the Maldives on loans taken under the Debt Service Suspension Initiative (DSSI) and the Maldives continues to enjoy the concessions today," said Shahid.

Shahid, who is also the president-elect of the 76th session of the U.N. General Assembly, said the details of the concessions can be obtained from the Finance Ministry. He said the initial concessions did not apply to state-owned companies but was later included after discussion.

The Maldives and China enjoyed close relations during former president, Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayyoom's presidency, and a large number of development projects were carried out with Chinese assistance. However, the relations between both countries have been somewhat strained since the new administration came to power in November 2019. Some believe that Nasheed's comments on China have significant effects on the relations between both countries. Although Nasheed's constant criticism of China does not reflect the government's opinion on the matter, some senior officials of the government hesitate to reprimand Nasheed for his comments.

When asked if Nasheeds statements criticizing the Chinese government would affect the Maldives' foreign policy, Shahid refrained from giving a clear answer. However, he said it will be very clear to the Chinese government who has the highest authority over the Maldives constitution and its foreign policy.

"As per our government system, the parliament and the government are two different branches, with the parliament being one of the powers of the state and the government another. However, as per Article 115 of the Constitution, it is the President's responsibility to oversee the foreign policy of the country. Even the Chinese government is familiar with the Maldives constitution and is aware that the President is responsible for the country's foreign policy," Shahid said.