Disquiet over China's unsolicited projects in Lanka
With the West showing disdain for Sri Lanka, India lacking the political will and financial resources needed to play its role as the regional power, and with Lanka itself entertaining fears of domination by the West and India, China has stepped into the breach with alacrity.
China has become Lanka’s highest creditor since the end of the war in 2009 and the biggest executor of multi-million dollar post-war reconstruction projects.
Besides plying Colombo with loans running into billions of dollars, Beijing has,in the recent past, begun to make “unsolicited proposals” for huge infrastructural projects. The by-passing of tendering procedure on the grounds that these proposals were unsolicited or there are no other proposals to compare has raised concerns in parliament and the media about costing and other aspects of the mega projects.
The government told parliament recently that the US$ 229 million water supply project in Gampaha district had been given to China National Machinery and Equipment Import and Export Co (CMEC) because no other parties were interested. CMEC got the contract even though its record in the Norochcholai power plant was bad, with the plant breaking down four times since inception. According to Sunday Times the US$ 255 million Trincomalee Outer Circular Road project (given to Hunan Road and Bridge Construction Corp) and the Colombo-Katunayake highway project also followed unsolicited proposals. Contracts were doled out circumventing normal tendering procedure. Chinese projects are funded by credit from Chinese banks and are not governmental grants as was the case with India-aided projects.
On the contrary, Western investments in Lanka are negligible. There is a lack of awareness of Lanka in Europe. “Only four MPs in the European parliament are interested in Sri Lanka,” German expert Dr Joachim Krause told the Defence Seminar-2013 in Colombo recently. On its part, Lanka is afraid of the West. Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa told the seminar that some Western powers were wanting a regime change in Lanka.