CIA chief Bill Burns says Sri Lanka made ‘dumb bets’ on heavy Chinese investment

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To what extent China is responsible for the economic crisis in Sri Lanka? Bill Burns, who is the chief of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), on Wednesday (July 20) blamed the “dumb bets” made by the South Asian nation Sri Lanka on China for the ongoing economic crisis. 

In the past few months, Sri Lanka suffered through food and fuel shortages, lengthy blackouts and galloping inflation as the nation ran out of foreign currency to import vital goods. 

Now, Burns said that high-debt Chinese investment by Sri Lanka’s leaders was one of the major factors that led to the South Asian country’s economic collapse. He noted that the Chinese have a lot of weight to throw around and they can make a very appealing case for their investments. 

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As quoted by news agency AFP, Burns told the Aspen Security Forum that all the countries should look at “object lessons of a place like Sri Lanka today – heavily indebted to China – which has made some really dumb bets about their economic future and are suffering pretty catastrophic, both economic and political consequences as a result.” 

He added, “That, I think, ought to be an object lesson to a lot of other players – not just in the Middle East or South Asia, but around the world – about having your eyes wide open about those kinds of dealings.” 

Not the just chief of the US intelligence agency, many experts have said that China’s debt trap diplomacy has become a major cause of Sri Lanka’s unprecedented economic crisis. 

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China has invested heavily in Sri Lanka and worked closely with former president Gotabaya Rajapaksa. A report by The Washington Post highlighted that Beijing has been Sri Lanka’s biggest creditor. 

The credit accounts for some 10 per cent of the country’s foreign debt. The communist nation between 2000 and 2020, moreover extended it to close to USD 12 billion in loans to the Sri Lankan government. 

Reports have mentioned that in 2017, Sri Lanka was unable to repay a $1.4 billion loan for port construction. It was forced to lease out the facility to a Chinese company for 99 years. 

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