Recent claims about the Government’s Chinese debt made by Sitiveni Rabuka on the Australian television show 60 Minutes have been dubbed “unpatriotic” by the Attorney-General and Minister for Economy.
Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum, who is also the Acting Prime Minister, in a press conference yesterday, clarified and raised serious concerns about the former prime minister’s claims after a number of media groups reached out for comments on the remarks Mr Rabuka made recently on the supposedly burdensome Chinese debt on the country.
Mr Sayed-Khaiyum also said the SODELPA leader’s comments were not factual.
During the show, titled ‘The China Syndrome’ Mr Rabuka stating that China’s plans in the nation was “domination” and “domination of the region”.
On the TV show, Mr Rabuka said he was not comfortable with China’s involvement in Fiji’s affairs and there was a fear that the Chinese would take over Fiji’s ports and airports because it was happening around the world.
However, Mr Sayed-Khaiyum clarified yesterday that the Chinese loans were only standing at 10.6 per cent of Fiji’s total debt, both external and internal, which is owed to the Exim Bank of China.
He said the Chinese debt, as percentage of Gross Domestic Product, was 4.7 per cent.
As far as external debts was a concern, Mr Sayed-Khaiyum said Fiji owed money to the Asian Development Bank (ADB), to the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), World Bank, JICA, Exim Bank of China and a Global Bond.
He said the fact was that the country only owed 10.6 per cent of total debt owed to the Exim Bank of China.
“He made all sorts of claims, took them (60 Minutes) to MacGregor Road to the building and said look at this, this is Chinese now and we owe money to them. No we don’t,” Mr Sayed-Khaiyum said.
He also said the building at MacGregor Road that was shown on the 60 Minutes programme was a private equity.
He also described Mr Rabuka’s statements as worrying.
“This was the man who under his prime ministership the National Bank of Fiji collapsed, and now we can understand more why it collapsed, he obviously does not understand finance,” the A-G said.
Speaking on the issue of ports and airports, Mr Sayed-Khaiyum asked why the country would give up its ports and airports.
He reiterated that the Chinese debt Fiji is in currently was used on the construction and tarsealing of the road between Nabouwalu and Dreketi in Vanua Levu, Sawani and Serea Road, Naitasiri, the Sigatoka Valley road, Buca Bay, Moto Road and the Public Rental Board development and the Housing Authority sub-division.
“They are the only projects for which we have a debt exposure for the Exim Bank for China. So do tell us Sitiveni Rabuka how are we going to suddenly give up our ports and airports?” Mr Sayed-Khaiyum asked.
He said Mr Rabuka was sensationalising this on the 60 Minutes show and Mr Rabuka was the same man who, under his government, offered people to come from Hong Kong, if they brought in a $100,000, would be given residency after five years.
Mr Sayed-Khaiyum said he was concerned that Mr Rabuka was a leader of an alternative government and was willing to spread false information.
“The only consistency with Sitiveni Rabuka is his inconsistency,” he said.
Meanwhile, Mr Sayed-Khaiyum said Government did explain the total debt exposure and the building in Suva to 60 Minutes, however he could not comment further on the show’s editorial side but was disappointed with Mr Rabuka.
Fiji Sun reached out to Mr Rabuka for comments last night, but he did not respond when this edition went to press.