Mon | Feb 18, 2019

Chinese xenophobia misplaced, says Clarke

Published:Sunday | January 20, 2019 | 12:00 AMSteven Jackson
The Mandela Highway between St Andrew and St Catherine is among the infrastructure projects being undertaken by Chinese firm China Harbour Engineering Company in Jamaica.

Chinese xenophobic sentiments in relation to investments in Jamaica by the world's second-largest economy are misplaced, according to Finance and the Public Service Minister Dr Nigel Clarke.

"It is misplaced and grounded in reading the newspaper reports on what is happening in other countries," said Clarke in an address to investors at the Mayberry Investments forum at the Knutsford Court Hotel, New Kingston, on Wednesday.

"Jamaica is in a completely different situation. Our loans to China are 3.9 per cent of our total loan portfolio, and we have none of the arrangements that sub-Saharan African countries have with China. So people have nothing to fear in that regard," the Minister said.

The island's debt portfolio hovers at J$2 trillion, which places Jamaica's debt to China at some J$78 billion.

China, in recent years, has started acquiring prized assets in a few nations in Africa and Asia following default on loans. Clarke has previously indicated that China's loans to Jamaica are at interest rates of two and three per cent, among the lowest around.

"China has been a great friend of Jamaica. When Jamaica was in deepest despair in 2008 and 2009 and when other people left, they came. Having said that, going forward, as our fiscal position improves, our options will open up in terms of financing," the finance minister said.

steven.jackson@gleanerjm.com