Saturday 21 Jul 2018 | 02:44 | SYDNEY
Saturday 21 Jul 2018 | 02:44 | SYDNEY

Fighting words from Fiji


Fergus Hanson


15 May 2008 12:17

An opinion piece I recently wrote for the SMH on Chinese aid in Fiji has stirred up a fighting reaction, along with some factual errors.   

The Permanent Secretary of the Prime Minister’s Office in Fiji, Parmesh Chand, is reported in the Fiji Times today as saying 'His figures are all wrong'. But at the same time, he has refused to reveal what the actual figures were. This is peculiar as the same newspaper in November 2007 reported the Finance Minister expressing his gratitude for a $US150 million Chinese soft loan (the largest part of pledged aid to Fiji in 2007). Other pledged aid figures were also drawn from the public record and then independently verified.

I don’t pretend using reports of pledged aid is the most accurate way of measuring China’s aid program, but unfortunately, given the secrecy, it remains the best. 

The response to my article contains some unfortunate inaccuracies* — such as mistaking my figures on pledged aid for aid received — but is a good reminder of the secrecy surrounding China’s aid program. Clearly, a lot more work needs to be done to persuade China to disclose the details of its aid program and recipient governments to accurately report the aid they receive. The interim government in Fiji should publish the figures on the aid it receives from China if it is serious about contesting the use of the only figures available to the public.

* The Fiji Times journalist also reports me as saying China’s aid to Fiji 'was more than the total amount of aid China gives to the Pacific as a whole on an annual basis'. This is not only a logical impossibility — as Fiji is part of the Pacific and therefore cannot receive more aid than the Pacific as a whole — it is not what my opinion piece said. It said China’s pledged aid to Fiji 'is more than half China's annual aid to the entire Pacific'.