04/05/2019, 13.53
MALDIVES – CHINA
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Maldives strangled by debts from deals with Beijing

Parliamentary elections are set for tomorrow. President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih is seeking a majority to review New Silk Road agreements with China, which have left up to US$ 3 billion in debt.

Malé (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Parliamentary elections will take place in the Maldives tomorrow with incumbent President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih seeking a majority for his party in order to investigate debts his predecessor piled up with China.

According to estimates, the country is in a “debt trap”, owing S$ 3 billion to China, and it is finding it hard to pay it back. Tomorrow’s election will thus determine the fate of its deals with China.

Recently the Finance Minister has boldly accused Beijing of inflating “the cost of debt". And according to President Solih, the country is on the brink of bankruptcy because of Chinese infrastructural loans to build Beijing’s New Silk Road, the so-called the "Belt and Road Initiative".

The Maldives is not the only country concerned about the consequences of its ties with the Chinese juggernaut. Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam are in a similar predicament.

Solih’s recent election has led to a shift in trade policy and geopolitical relations vis-à-vis China and India. Before his election, Solih was a relatively unknown figure in the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) and a trusted aide of former President Mohamed Nasheed.

Former President Abdulla Yameen, of the Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM), was close to Beijing, with whom he signed several deals during his presidency, whilst Solih is seeking a rapprochement with India.

In tomorrow’s elections, the MDP is pushing for a secular country and would allow the construction of churches and temples. It is currently in a coalition government with three parties, including the Jumhooree Party.  

A favourite destination for western tourists, Maldivian authorities do not allow religious freedom and enforce Islamic law (Sharia). Sunni Islam is the state religion.

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