Bangladesh must place Chinese investments on a leash
Bangladesh is in debt to China to the tune of about USD 8 billion. Till the recent past it also had close military relationship, and therefore purchased of many of its latest weapons systems from China which are now causing anxiety to the Bangladesh Defence Forces. The glittering weapons have turned out to be a big disappointment. Bangladesh has now shown the ability to manage its debt but China is still trying its best to entrap the country with rosy pictures.
China is striving very hard to present itself as a reliable partner for economic recovery post-Covid-19 pandemic in Bangladesh but its economic partnership seems to be turning out as an albatross around their neck for recipient countries. Sri Lanka, Pakistan and even Nepal are shining examples of this.
Chinese Ambassador to Bangladesh Li Jiming on May 3 lauded Dhaka for successfully continuing its development trend despite facing the pandemic and even took the credit for the country’s proper handling of the coronavirus pandemic, Bangladesh Live News reported.
“It makes me so inspired and I’m proud to say that China made due contributions to this great achievement of yours,” the ambassador had said.
These statements may show that China is a reliable economic partner but its tax evasion case, and fraud case portrays a different picture. Chinese-driven corruption has permeated into several layers of Bangladeshi business enterprises, even government transactions.
Last year, after the case of embezzlement of funds in megaprojects, came under the spotlight, Bangladesh authorities forced the Chinese government to withdraw from financing three infrastructure projects.
These projects in the railway sector included building a mixed gauge double line from Joydebpur in Gazipur to Ishwardi in Pabna near the capital Dhaka.
In another incident, a Bangladeshi labourer was assaulted by a Chinese project officer over a matter of not wearing the mask properly while he was working at the site. Chinese workers got furious at the worker and beat him up. After this, he was admitted to the Bakerganj Upazila Health Complex, according to Bangladesh Live News.
The ill-treatment of workers is a major concern in the construction process of coal-fired power plants as part of the Chinese megaprojects in Bangladesh.
Last year, in April, a group of workers of the SS Power Plant gathered in Chittagong to peacefully protest for higher wages and reduced working hours. Police authorities intervened to quell the protest through violent means.
The Bangladeshi press recorded five deaths and a dozen injured people in the clash. Indeed, the coal plant and infrastructure implementations are causing widespread displacement of highly populated rural areas by endangering their ecosystem and resources such as water and air pollution. As a result, inhabitants of the impacted areas gathered in protests to stop the land seizing. Furthermore, the increase in the building of coal plants is failing to respect workers’ rights, reported Bangladesh Live News.
China expects Bangladesh to be an important player in its South Asian BRI scheme and Dhaka has also shown its interest in joining the scheme. But, according to Publication, Bangladesh should take a lesson from what happened in Sri Lanka after it took heed of China’s scheme.
Presently, Sri Lanka is battling a severe economic crisis with food and fuel scarcity affecting a large number of people in the island nation and China is one of the responsible factors.
In a post-pandemic situation where Bangladesh too is looking at economic recovery, it runs the risk of becoming even more dependent on Beijing, which is rife with systemic corruption, paired with a lack of accountability.