President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) on Thursday addressed the parliament of Saint Lucia, touting the mutual benefits of bilateral cooperation and saying there is no concern that Taiwanese loans could ever become debt traps.
While project loans would come from Taiwanese banks, the work would be contracted out to Saint Lucian firms through Overseas Engineering and Construction Co, meaning that Taiwan would hire local workers, Tsai said.
“This model of cooperation ensures that both our peoples can participate and reap the benefits. There will be no issue of ‘debt traps,’ unlike some other cooperation models,” she said, adding that she believes in mutually beneficial projects rooted in strong communication and collaboration.
Tsai’s comment came in the wake of accusations in the West that China is using its Belt and Road Initiative to exert control over countries that join the transnational infrastructure investment scheme and trap them in debt.
“Taiwan and Saint Lucia are small countries, and we both face challenges brought about by geography, access to resources and climate change. Yet we have both walked the long road to democratization,” Tsai said.
Later, Tsai and Saint Lucian Prime Minister Allen Chastanet attended the launch of the second phase of the Government Island-wide Network and a ceremony at the Gros Islet Human Resource Development Centre, projects that are being implemented in cooperation with Taiwan.
In remarks at the launch, Tsai said that Taiwan and Saint Lucia have cooperated on Internet infrastructure since 2015.
Since then, 63 wireless Internet hotspots have been installed in 33 locations in five regions of the Caribbean country, she said.
At the inauguration ceremony for the center, Tsai said that it would be a focal point for education, local culture and tourism promotion.
The center is part of the Community Development Project the two nations have been working on since 2007, Tsai said.
The project has created 25,000 job opportunities and completed more than 2,400 public infrastructure projects, including flood control and drainage systems, and paths, she said.
Chastanet thanked Taiwan for its support and assistance with the two projects.
Tsai was to depart Saint Lucia at about 10am yesterday, ending a state visit to Taiwan’s four diplomatic allies in the region. She was to fly to Denver, Colorado, for a two-night visit before returning to Taiwan, with her arrival set for Monday.