China's US$500 million tops MCC offer from the US


On a request made by the Sri Lankan government China provided a concessionary loan of US$ 500 million with a term of 10 years, to help Sri Lanka financially to better respond to the current COVID–19 pandemic. China Development Bank and Sri Lanka’s Ministry of Finance signed the 500 million US dollar loan agreement in March in Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa’s Office.

The US offered $450 million, stretched over five years, via its MCC (Millennium Challenge Corporation) fund.  This offer raised much discussion and even fear in some quarters.  Meanwhile, a Chinese funding facility  of  US$500 million is accepted with hardly any discussion, and comes handy to handle the extra expenses caused by the Coronavirus. The difference is, while the Chinese funding facility seems to be offered via a standard banking mechanism with no ideological underpinnings, the US programme was high on the ideological side.  The MCC funding comes with its own ideology, which is stated at its website. It is based on  "partnerships with developing countries who are committed to good governance, economic freedom and investing in their citizens". Good governance is what is the form of government  practiced by regimes which are pro-US, and it requires the protection of   "free markets", while also supporting the  trade sanctions and  embargoes  imposed on various countries by the US. The MCC offer to Sri Lanka involved the construction of highways, as well as  a programme to transform its land ownership and land registration methodology, making it easy for land owners and buyers  to buy and sell land - say, on the internet. Under the Wickremesinghe-Sirisena government, with people like Mangala Samaraweera who is a trusted  acolyte of Ms. Samantha Powers, this actually meant that some wealthy investor  in  Dubai or Detroit should  be able to buy up land in Sri Lanka with prices determined  essentially by "market forces" and nothing else.  The MCC proposals came with other programmes which complemented it, for example, with special privileges to US-forces personnel  to come in and out of the country with little oversight left to the Sri Lankan government. The Ranil government was on the cusp of accepting the MCC agreement, and even had a paid US agent working surreptitiously with Mr. Karu Jayasuriya, the Speaker. One wondered if the Speaker was   tacitly partisan to the US agenda. But the pro-US forces  could not carry it through due to the rapidly changing political situation in Colombo, even though the Speaker of the House won many accolades from the Western diplomats in a manner that would not have been considered kosher. In the end, the MCC proposals were subject to a review by an expert committee by the new Rajapaksa government and the government decided (28th February 2020) to suspend  signing it. Meanwhile the UNP deputy leader Sajith Premadasa,  who had supported the MCC compact, began to oppose it after he began to directly confront Ranil Wickremesinghe. However, the facilitators of US policy in Sri Lanka like Mangala Samarweera have moved in with Premadasa, and hence it is not clear if  Premadasa's stance is purely an election tactic.    Meanwhile, China's low key apolitical approach has once again succeeded. Although the Ranil-Mangala-Maithree combine did much to please the US, and the pro-LTTE Diaspora groups, the pro-US regime only got strong advice and tutoring to  rewrite the constitution, but  no pocket money from Uncle Sam. Many Western-funded  NGOs and  pro-LTTE diaspora groups that are powerful in the US have  lined up  (ironically enough with human-rights groups) and the family of the late editor of the Sunday leader, who are gunning for Gotabaya Rajapaksa. They are available as pawns for Uncle Sam to make the next move. While the Presidential Election that pushed Rajapaksa into power had been a serious set back to the US, the chess game  to control  the silk road  will continue unabated.




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