TAIPEI (Taiwan News) -- Hot on the heels of last week's defection of Burkina Faso to China, and the switching of neighbor the Dominican Republic's allegiance to Beijing earlier this month, Taiwan has agreed to loan about US$150 million dollars to Haiti to electrify the whole Caribbean island country, reports Haiti Libre.
Just before Haitian President Jovenel Moïse began his current five-day visit to Taiwan with a 30-member delegation, Jude Alix Patrick Salomon, the Minister of Economy and Finance announced that Taiwan has granted a loan of approximately US$150 million dollars to build an extensive electric grid in Haiti.
With China willing to offer multi-billion dollar loans as part of its "dept trap diplomacy" strategy which lures third world leaders with massive loans in exchange for severing ties with Taiwan, many worry that Haiti could be next. The most insidious part of China's dept trap diplomacy is that after corrupt leaders have taken their cut, the countries are ultimately saddled with a mountain of debt they can never repay and thus must surrender a strategic asset, such as a sea port, to China in perpetuity.
As one of Taiwan's last Caribbean allies, Haiti finds itself in an unusual position of having two suitors willing to offer larges sums of money to woo them to their side, and this time around the country is looking to shift away from charity and head toward long-term development.
Wilson Laleau, former Haiti finance and commerce minister, told the Miami Herald, "Taiwan is a longtime friend... [but] Haiti is looking for where its interests lie." Laleau then went on to say that the country has shifted towards looking for investors rather than benefactors:
"We are talking to all to see what is possible. We are looking for alliances, partners who want to come and invest with us. We are not looking for traditional aid, or people who are going to give charity. That's what put Haiti in the situation it is in."
In response to the news of the US$150 million dollar project, Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Andrew Lee (李憲章) said at regular news conference that a policy priority of Haiti's president is to improve the power supply to better meet the energy needs of the Haitian people. Lee said that based on the needs of Taiwan's allies, it will arrange visits to related domestic facilities, however the specifics on the mode of assistance will require further discussions with the government of Haiti.
During his current trip to Taiwan, Moïse on Tuesday emphasized that“Haiti is willing to strengthen cooperative partnership with Taiwan so that the relationship between the two countries can be long-lasting and robust.”In exchange, Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) said that she looked forward seeing the two nations support one another in the pursuit of sustainable development.
In June of last year Moïse pledged to build a new energy network to provide electricity to the country 24 hours a day within the next 18 to 24 months. The planned grid would cover 600 kilometers and supply power to 16 major cities and ten departments, reported Haiti Libre.