The Government of the People’s Republic of China says it stands ready to assist Caribbean countries like Trinidad and Tobago with natural disaster prevention which includes flood mitigation. This forms part of what it calls its new age of co-operation with Latin America and the Caribbean.
Last Friday, Guardian Media as part of a Caribbean delegation of journalists spoke with the Deputy Director General of the Department of Latin America and the Caribbean Affairs of Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Zhang Run, where he presented China’s Policy Paper on Latin America and the Caribbean.
As part of the policy, China is willing to deepen partnerships with Caribbean countries with respect to disaster prevention and reduction.
Asked to elaborate on that partnership, Run said while China already maintains strong bilateral communications with the Caribbean in that aspect, if a country has specific needs then that same channel of communication can be used to ascertain how China can best help.
His statement came at a time when Trinidad and Tobago suffered widespread prolonged flooding throughout the country.
Most times when there is a discussion on flood preparedness in the country, several regional corporations often say that funding is an issue. In fact, just this year at the start of the rainy season, Guardian Media contacted the Port-of-Spain City Corporation to query if any measures were completed to protect the flood-prone capital.
A senior official at the City Corporation said then that while some work was done, to redo the drainage in the capital would cost several million dollars, money it just does not have at this time. Given China’s invitation to open dialogue on such initiatives, this could be one avenue towards a solution.
In its new partnership policy with the Caribbean and Latin America that infrastructure cooperation will be the main thrust. In that policy, it says that China will strengthen cooperation on technical consultation and construction and engineering.
Apart from direct assistance, Run told Guardian Media that China is happy to enhance co-operation by contributing more to disaster relief funding through the Organization of American States (OAS) and to strengthen its partnership through the Inter-American Development Bank and the Caribbean Development Bank to make disaster prevention an agenda item.
Run says China does have the expertise to help countries like Trinidad and Tobago with flood mitigation as it is also prone to natural disasters. Just this week the province of Guangdong, China’s most populous city prepared for Typhoon Khanun, this year’s 20th typhoon.
The Chinese Government said it also contributed nearly US$1.3 million in food and items to Grenada and Antigua and Barbuda following the passage of Hurricane Irma.
China said it sympathises with small island states which find it difficult to access concessional loans due to its per capita GDP.
This issue was raised by Dominica’s Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit following the passage of Hurricane Irma.
Dominica due to its high per capita incomes, have advanced or “graduated” from the low income Least Developed Country (LDC) designation to Upper Middle Income.
Antigua & Barbuda Prime Minister Gaston Browne argued before the UN General Assembly (UNGA) recently that it was unfair for small, vulnerable states to be denied access to concessionary rates because of their per capita income.
Browne told the UN there was no justice in large, wealthy countries borrowing at a favourable three per cent per annum while “so-called ‘high income’ small island states are forced to borrow commercially at 12 per cent per annum, to repeatedly rebuild.
China’s Government said it fully understands that position and will try to increase aid to the Caribbean and collaborate with multi-national institutions.