LESOTHO received a massive boost in its quest to reduce its international debt burden after the Chinese government resolved to cancel debts owed in respect of the construction of the parliament building and the ’Manthabiseng National Convention Centre.
The Chinese government also undertook to give Lesotho a cash donation of M300 million, M50 million worth of rice and M16 million worth of other food aid from the government of China.
This was revealed this week by the Prime Minister, Thomas Thabane, and the Minister of Development Planning Tlohelang Aumane, upon their return from the Forum on China Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) summit in Beijing, China.
The summit, which was held from 3 to 4 September this year, seeks to promote political dialogue and economic co-operation on an equal footing between China and African countries.
Dr Thabane, who met Chinese President Xi Jinping after the summit, this week said that the latter not only made cash donations but re-affirmed his country’s commitment to helping Lesotho finance several infrastructure projects.
These include the M1, 4 billion Ha Mpiti to Sehlabathebe road in the Qacha’s Nek district which will employ at least 500 Basotho.
Other projects include the construction of the M800 million Maseru District hospital and the eye care facility and these will be financed through a loan from the Export Import Bank of China.
“During my official meeting with President Jinping after the FOCAC summit, he announced a donation of ¥150 million equivalent to (M300 million) to Lesotho,” Dr Thabane said this week.
“He (President Jinping) also pledged to donate ¥25 million (about M50 million) worth of rice to Lesotho and a further ¥1 million (M15 million) worth of food aid to Lesotho through the World Food Programme.
“President Xi Jinping also made a commitment that China will help Lesotho with financial support towards the implementation of its large-scale development projects.”
Dr Thabane also revealed that he met with China’s Deputy President Li Keqiang and they agreed that China would soon send experts to Lesotho to conduct a feasibility study on the construction of a fire management facility as well agricultural silos.
“We further affirmed our commitment to immediately implement the decisions of the FOCAC summit. In view of this, ministers from the two countries signed agreements on the donation of M300 million in cash and M50 million worth of rice. China also agreed to send experts to conduct feasibility studies on the construction of a fire management facility and agricultural silos as well providing sponsorship for training Basotho students,” Dr Thabane said.
He said President Jinping also expressed gratitude to Lesotho for its unwavering support to China in opposing Taiwan’s bid for recognition as a state that is independent from China.
“For a long time, the government of Lesotho has been supporting the idea that Taiwan is a part of China, therefore there is only one China. This is called ‘The One China Policy.’
“President Xi Jinping also expressed gratitude for Lesotho’s support in the ongoing conflict at the South China Sea and for China’s bid to chair some global organisations.”
Dr Thabane also revealed that President Jinping will visit Lesotho after accepting an invitation from the government.
“He (President Jinping) will visit at a time that is convenient to him. We however, wish for him to come when we are launching some of the projects they are sponsoring,” Dr Thabane said.
China has contributed enormously to Lesotho’s infrastructural developments, including the ‘Manthabiseng National Convention Centre, the parliament building, the State Library and Archive, the China-Lesotho Friendship Middle School and the new State House.
Meanwhile, Mr Aumane revealed that there would be debt relief for the country after China resolved to write off debts owed in respect of the construction of the parliament building and the ’Manthabiseng National Convention Centre. He said China had resolved to cancel all interest-free loans owed to it by many African countries.