Trinidad and Tobago cannot disregard the “China factor.” That was the advice from Wendell Mottley, a former Minister of Finance, who also warned that Chinese loans can become “an albatross around our necks as they have become in some parts of Africa, but that’s not the Chinese’ fault.”
Mottley focused on growing Chinese investment in the region in his contribution to a seminar on Growth and International Partnerships hosted by AmChamTT at the Royal Hotel, San Fernando, yesterday,
Noting that China’s effort to gain influence in the region has caused the United States to respond accordingly, Mottley said T&T will have to be very sophisticated as it manoeuvres partnerships with the two countries.
He asked: “As a country, are we taking loans or welcoming investments?”
Mottley said it would be better to obtain investments “where the Chinese took some of the commercial risks.”
He recalled that when he facilitated US$750 million in loans for Petrotrin to upgrade its diesel operations, he was told: “Petrotrin has an awful history of managing their capital expenditures.”
According to Mottley, outside of the $2.6 billion China has invested in T&T, the Chinese Investment Corporation bought ten per cent of Atlantic LNG Train 1 for US 800 million. That facility is worth approximately US$40 billion, he pointed out.
He said China is shifting away from coal to invest in solar and wind technologies but in the interim, they will be using LNG. While they are increasingly looking to sources near to them, they are also increasingly looking at prospects in this part of the world.
“That investment is not only financial it is strategic,” he said of the LNG deal.
“Whether we like it or not, we find ourselves as a key strategic player in a big play that is of global significance and they will require to bring to all of this a degree of sophistication and human ingenuity and hard work.
“We are to make use of the opportunities and not just fritter them away and find ourselves used for other people’s purposes which are legitimate and not be bright enough to serve our own,” Mottley urged.
The role and influence of China and its role in T&T were in focus in many presentations at the seminar.
AmCham TT CEO Nirad Tewarie said a key objective of the session was to look at “developments in the last few months and the prospects for growth coming out of the changes and through links with other countries.”
“The only way we are going to return to growth is if we are able to attract investment, utilize government expenditure in a productive manner and develop the institutions and the system that would allow for the efficient use of resources in both the public and private sector,” he said.