Guyana Is Evidence of the Pitfalls of Chinese Aid and Investment in the Caribbean

The promises of a new-style development from the Chinese may in fact be more “gilded than gold” as evidence of this truth is found in China’s relationship with Guyana. The Caribbean has become home to many Chinese-built infrastructure projects; earlier this year Chinese workers flocked to Jamaica to complete a US$730 million mega-highway. But in Guyana the ties that bond have begun to fray with the forced closure of the prominent Chinese logging company, Baishanlin.

Despite being China’s oldest partner in the Caribbean, Guyanese officials have become wary of the promises made by Beijing. China pledged foreign aid, development assistance and interest-free loans in turn for access to  a total of 270 million consumers in South America and the Caribbean and over $130 billion dollars in market access. But agreements have not been kept, as is evident in the shell of a brick factory that began in 1976 with the promise of 10-million bricks a year; the building was abandoned in the early 1990s. In fact proposed projects are often funneled to Chinese companies under a secretive bidding process, undercutting Guyanese contractors for suppliers and labor imported from China. If the situation in Guyana is any indication of the true model of Chinese development assistance, exploitation is a constant and pervasive theme.

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