Sunday, December 10, 2006

Chinafrica (9) Watching for PRC influence in Africa

Beware of Chinese bearing loans! Easy Credit Rip-offs may not be recognized in the midst of jubilations over our new found friends.

A recent article, "China loans create 'new wave of Africa debt," By Alan Beattie in London and Eoin Callan in Washington Published: December 7, 2006, is an inciteful warning; text follows:

Last updated: December 7 2006 22:00 The International Monetary Fund warned on Thursday that China's emergence as an alternative lender was creating a new wave of hidden debt in Africa as it backed its companies' expansion overseas with increasingly aggressive lending. Adnan Mazarei, a director at the fund, said action was needed "to avoid another round of debt accumulation" as emerging lenders such as China became an important source of funds.

An IMF official said that while it was working to strengthen surveillance, the fund did not have precise numbers or details about the amounts borrowed by poor countries. "This is a new situation," said Martine Guerguil, an IMF official. "We have new creditors." A report prepared by the IMF and World Bank shows China is the largest of six new creditor nations. The others are Kuwait, Brazil, India, South Korea and Saudi Arabia. It said lending by China had risen to $5bn in 2004, double the figure 10 years earlier. "The terms of emerging creditors' credits to LICs [low income countries] are not well known," it said. "Many have non-traditional financial structures [including implicit or explicit collateralisation, foreign exchange clauses and variable fees] that hamper the assessment of their impact on debt sustainability."

The fund and World Bank are dependent on voluntary co-operation from China, as it seeks to secure energy supplies and commodities in Africa and elsewhere in the developing world to fuel its conomic growth. James Adams, the World bank's vice-president for east Asia and the Pacific, said in Beijing the bank had proposed to China the idea of jointly financed projects. "We've had constructive discussions and we're pretty confident that we'll be able to find a broad range of activities where we can work together," he said. But Mr Adams said China had insisted it would not attach detailed conditions to its loans to governments in Africa and other developing regions. "Given that position, the challenge is in the areas that they want to work: is there an appropriate framework for investment and will that investment be productive?" he said. Chen Yuan, governor of the China Development Bank (CDB), the world's largest development institution by assets, said last week the bank's lending abroad would rise "very fast" as it backed the overseas push of China's state-owned energy and mineral companies into Africa and elsewhere.

Concern has risen sharply among rich nations' development ministries and international aid agencies that China's push into Africa could reverse their work of the past decade writing off African countries' official debts and making sure that aid was spent well. China has done deals in countries such as Sudan, in which it secured valuable oil concessions, where the World Bank's human rights and environmental safeguard rules prevent it operating. The CDB came under fire last year for its role in plans for a palm-oil plantation in a forested region of Indonesia. Philippe Maystadt, president of the European Investment Bank, an EU-backed financing institution, has said the EIB and other multilateral banks were losing projects in Asia and Africa to Chinese banks because they "don't bother about social or human rights conditions". Chinese officials have argued that China cannot be expected immediately to adhere to the same lending rules as rich donor countries, and that it helps African nations by building roads, railways, hospitals and schools in return for access to natural resources. Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2006



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