Tue, 07 Feb 2023

LUSAKA, Jan. 25 (Xinhua) -- Remarks by U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen that China has been a barrier to concluding Zambia's debt negotiations is unfortunate and disturbing, Emmanuel Mwamba, a former diplomat said on Wednesday.

Mwamba, who is Zambia's former Ambassador to Ethiopia and former Permanent Representative to the African Union, said it was unfortunate that the U.S. official decided to bring out the issue of China in the bilateral talks with Zambia while on a visit to the country, adding that this was against diplomatic etiquette.

He said China's stance on the debt with Zambia was clear, adding that as a sovereign nation, China decided to join the creditors' committee without being induced.

China, he said, has been an all-weather friend to Zambia and financed the construction of the Tanzania-Zambia railway even when it was not a wealthy country in the 1970s.

According to him, the huge infrastructure projects being funded by China in Zambia such as power projects, show that China has been a generous supporter of Zambia's development.

Fred Mutesa, an expert in governance, development cooperation and poverty alleviation, concurred, saying that remarks by the U.S. official were misplaced. "We hope that the U.S. will not take advantage of its renewed friendship with Zambia to score points against China. What is required is for all parties to sit down and discuss in an honest manner."

He said China has been a facilitator in Zambia's debt restructuring process, adding that the U.S. government was being sensational and playing to the gallery on Zambia's external debt issue. "It appears our American friends are bent on prizing Zambia away from China. The language from both USA policymakers and their allied media is reminiscent of the Cold War."

Mutesa said China has shown its goodwill by volunteering to co-chair the creditors committee. He added that it was clear that the U.S. interest was not about helping Africa or Zambia but advancing its global interest in a region or country where it feels it was losing ground.

According to a report by the British non-governmental organization Debt Justice, African governments owe three times as much debt to Western private lenders as to China, and these Western lenders charge twice as much interest as China does.

In a statement posted on its Facebook page on Monday, the Chinese Embassy in Zambia said China has been active in co-chairing Zambia's Official Creditors Committee under the G20 Common Framework and working hard with other parties to seek a sustainable solution in line with the principle of common actions and fair burden-sharing.

"In fact, the biggest contribution that the U.S. can make to the debt issues outside the country is to act on responsible monetary policies, cope with its own debt problem, and stop sabotaging other sovereign countries' active efforts to solve their debt issues," the statement said.

"China's efforts have made some positive progress. We look forward to U.S.' constructive role in the process," the statement said, adding that the U.S. domestic debt problem is now worsening the world's economic and financial stability.

The United States hit its debt ceiling of 31.4 trillion U.S. dollars last week, prompting the Treasury Department to take "extraordinary measures" to continue financing the federal government. The debt ceiling is the maximum amount the U.S. government can borrow. Currently, the country can borrow up to about 31.4 trillion U.S. dollars.

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