China spent $240 bn bailing out ‘Belt And Road’ countries: Report

New York: China spent $240 billion bailing out 22 developing countries between 2008 and 2021, with the amount soaring in recent years as more have struggled to repay loans spent building “Belt & Road” infrastructure, according to a study published this week.

Almost 80 per cent of the rescue lending was made between 2016 and 2021, mainly to middle-income countries including Argentina, Mongolia and Pakistan, according to the report by researchers from the World Bank, Harvard Kennedy School, AidData and the Kiel Institute for the World Economy.

China has lent hundreds of billions of dollars to build infrastructure in developing countries, but lending has tailed off since 2016 as many projects have failed to pay the expected financial dividends.

“Beijing is ultimately trying to rescue its own banks. That’s why it has gotten into the risky business of international bailout lending,” said Carmen Reinhart, a former World Bank chief economist and one of the study’s authors.

Chinese loans to countries in debt distress soared from less than 5% of its overseas lending portfolio in 2010 to 60% in 2022, the study found.

Argentina received the most, with $111.8 billion, followed Pakistan on $48.5 billion and Egypt with $15.6 billion. Nine countries received less than $1 billion.

People’s Bank of China (PBOC) swap lines accounted for $170 billion of the rescue financing, including in Suriname, Sri Lanka and Egypt. Bridge loans or balance of payments support by Chinese state-owned banks was $70 billion. Rollovers of both kinds of loan were $140 billion.

China is negotiating debt restructurings with countries including Zambia, Ghana and Sri Lanka and has been criticized for holding up the processes. In response, it has called on the World Bank and International Monetary Fund to also offer debt relief.


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