China prefers its friendship with Maldives to jewellery, says Ambassador Zhang Lizhong.
The Chinese ambassador to Maldives said this via Twitter on Friday, in response to Speaker and Former President, Mohamed Nasheed’s recent statement that the country would be ‘unable to repay its debt to China even after selling inherited jewellery from grandmothers’.
Nasheed said this after parliament’s debate of the proposed state budget for 2021, which he said that shows that debt repayments “amount to 53 percent of government revenue” and that over 80 percent of this goes to China.
“Totally unaffordable. Even if we sell our grandmother’s jewelry, we won’t be able to afford these repayments”
~ Mohamed Nasheed, Speaker and Former President
Lizhong admitted that jewellery inherited from grandmother “is very precious”. Noting that this jewellery comes with “a price”, the ambassador said that China prefers friendship “which is priceless”.
Further highlighting that “a friend in need is a friend indeed,” he said that the southeastern nations “is always ready to offer its helping hand to Maldives for a strengthened partnership and shared future”.
The Chinese official attached photos of some news stories to his tweet, one with a reminder of China’s combined debt relief of USD 2.1 billion to developing countries, under the G20 framework.
Following the concern, the President’s Office on Wednesday confirmed that the Chinese government has deferred the repayment of some loans taken for the upcoming year as well.
China had earlier, under the G20 Debt Service Suspension Initiative (DSSI), reduced this year’s loan repayment figure to USD 75 million from USD 100 million.
China has been a generous contributor to the island nation’s response efforts since the coronavirus outbreak surfaced. As such, China has donated essential medical supplies and equipment and assisted in constructing accommodation blocks for expatriate workers.