Sri Lanka to get $1 bn Chinese loan

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Beijing: Sri Lanka will get loans of $1 billion from China, its biggest lender and might sign a free trade agreement with Beijing, becoming the third country to ink such a pact in India’s neighbourhood.

Sri Lankan envoy to Beijing Karunasena Kodituwakku, who made the announcement here, said it was wrong to accuse China of pushing the South Asian island nation into a debt trap.

Sri Lanka will soon sign a concessional loan agreement with the Export-Import Bank of China to borrow $1 billion to fund a major highway from Colombo to Kandy, Kodituwakku said on Tuesday at a briefing.

The money will be used for the first stage of the central highway and the second stage will be financed by Sri Lankan consortiums and the third by Japanese loans, the Global Times quoted him as saying.

It was not clear if the envoy was talking about the same $1 billion loan which his country’s top bank official said will come from the Export-Import Bank of China.

Sri Lanka is trying to limp back to normalcy after being hit by a deep political crisis last year that plunged the credit rating of the already-indebted country.

The Chinese have made deep inroads into the strategically located nation in the Indian Ocean and have a 100-year lease of the Hambantota Port after Sri Lanka failed to pay back loans.

Beijing’s growing presence in Sri Lanka worries India which held considerable clout in the country.

The envoy also said that Sri Lanka was in talks with China on a Free Trade Agreement (FTA).

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