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6 Feb 2021

Jonathan Barrett & Praveen Menon, Reuters

Pacific island nations turn to AIIB loans to minimise pandemic’s uncertain socio-economic impact

"Pacific island nations turn to AIIB loans to minimise pandemic’s uncertain socio-economic impact" 25 January 2021

Pacific island nations are turning to the China-backed AIIB development bank to plug funding gaps in their pandemic-ravaged budgets after exhausting financing options from traditional western partners, stoking fears the region is becoming more dependent on Beijing.

The Cook Islands, a tiny country of around 20,000 people in the South Pacific, turned to the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) late last year after a loan from the Asian Development Bank (ADB) and a grant from close ally New Zealand fell short, two sources with knowledge of the talks said.

The US$20 million loan to the Cook Islands was the AIIB’s second to a strained Pacific economy in the last few months, after Fiji secured a US$50 million facility, signalling its arrival in the Pacific region.

The multi-lateral lender said the loans to Fiji and Cook Islands were co-financed with the U.S. and Japanese-led ADB.

“The objective is to minimise the pandemic’s uncertain socio-economic impact on AIIB members given their heavy dependence on the international tourism market,” it said.

Vanuatu, with a population of 300,000, also announced in January that it had accepted a US$12 million grant from the Chinese government. [...]