“SHE did it again — talking without saying anything substantial.”
That was the statement of the online Manila Times article written and published by Sass Rogando Sasot-an international relations expert and a well-known blogger. The said remark by Sasot was anchored on the previous statement of Vice President Leni Robredo scrutinizing one of the major infrastructure projects of the Duterte government.
In her article Sasot nitpicked on the “shallowness” if the Vice President claiming that Robredo lacked sufficient background knowledge on the things that she is saying publicly.
Giving a short introductory information on the issue being tackled, Sasot wrote:
“Vice President Leni Robredo raised worries about the Bicol Express railway system, one of the major infrastructure projects of the Duterte administration. The Bicol Express is part of the North-South Railway Project (NSRP)-South Line, which was been unbundled into two in July 2017.”
“Connecting Tutuban, Manila and Los Baños, Laguna, the first part of the NSRP-South Line will be financed by Japan; while the second part, which connects Calamba, Laguna and Matnog, Sorsogon, will be funded by China. The project has been unbundled in order to accommodate financing from both the Japanese and Chinese governments.” Sasot added elaborately.
However, Robredo cautioned that there is a possibility for the Philippines to suffer the same unfortunate fate with Sri Lanka should this foreign-funded project unfold.
“We might suffer the same fate as Sri Lanka, whose Chinese-funded infrastructure projects led it to a debt trap.” Sasot claimed to be Robredo’s concern.
Sasot then provided an astounding elucidatory explanation about Sri Lanka’s so-called “debt trap” with the Chinese government.
“Sri Lanka’s debt trap was caused by large-scale infrastructure projects of the administration of President Mahinda Rajapaksa. Some of these are the Hambantota port and the Mattala Rajapaksa International Airport (MRIA). Both were largely funded by loans from China.” Sasot explained.
Yet both projects failed to generate economic returns…Since it operated in March 2013, with a handful of flights every week, MRIA didn’t generate enough revenue to pay back the $190 million of loans that were provided by the Exim Bank of China to build it…The Hambantota port also suffered the same fate since it is fairly isolated. With no industrial hub nearby, there are no natural customers on its doorstep. Both projects became a liability to Sri Lanka.” Sasot added elaborately.
Discussing how the Sri Lankan government managed to make it up to its foreign loaners, Sasot revealed that both government infrastructure projects are set to be utilized by other foreign nations.
“To unload these burdens, the Sri Lankan government would now be leasing the Hambantota port to a Chinese company for 99 years, while an Indian company is set to lease MRIA.” Sasot stated.
Expressing her analysis on the issue, Sasot concluded that what caused the Sri Lankan Government to be highly indebted to the Chinese government was not the mere act of “loaning”. Rather it is the failure of the two infrastructure projects to generate suffice revenues.
“Based on this information, what led to the Sri Lankan debt trap? One can easily see that Sri Lanka fell into a debt trap because the infrastructure their debt built were useless. They failed to become catalysts for economic growth in the Hambantota region.” Sasot asserted.
Going back to Robredo’s statement, Sasot posed a series of significant questions directed towards the vice president. These questions, as how Sasot framed them, implicitly establish the lack of intellectual depth of Robredo’s cause of concern insubstantially supported by her superficial Sri Lankan analogy.
“So, Madam Vice President, how exactly are we going to end up like Sri Lanka? Do you fear that the Bicol Express railway system would become as useless as MRIA and the Hambantota port? Are you not convinced that the project would generate sustainable revenues that could help in repaying the debt that built it? Can you tell us how the Bicol Express financed by Chinese loans would fail to aid the economic development of your region?” Sasot questioned.
Describing Robredo’s publicized concern as a mere act of “fearmongering”, Sasot remarked conclusively:
“Without persuasive answers to these questions, Madam Vice President, your crude use of the Sri Lankan analogy is nothing but fearmongering.” Sasot ended.
Source: Manila Times, Sass Rogando Sasot
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