Sierra Leone can­cels Chi­na­funded air­port project

Daily Nation Newspaper - - NEWS OF THE WORLD - - BBC

FREETOWN - Sierra Leone has can­celled a $400 mil­lion Chi­nese-funded project to build a new air­port out­side the cap­i­tal Freetown. Former Pres­i­dent Ernest Bai Koroma signed the loan agree­ment with China be­fore he lost elec­tions in March. At the time, the World Bank and the In­ter­na­tional Mone­tary Fund warned that the project would im­pose a heavy debt bur­den. The de­ci­sion comes amid con­cern that many African coun­tries risk de­fault­ing on their debts to China. Avi­a­tion Min­is­ter Kabineh Kal­lon told the BBC that the project, which was due to have been com­pleted in 2022, wasn’t nec­es­sary and its cur­rent in­ter­na­tional air­port would be ren­o­vated in­stead. He said the cur­rent pres­i­dent, Julius Maada Bio, “didn’t see any need for Ma­mamah (the pro­posed air­port)” and was con­sid­er­ing build­ing a bridge from the cap­i­tal to Lungi air­port - the only in­ter­na­tional air­port in the coun­try. Cur­rently pas­sen­gers need to get a boat or he­li­copter to reach Freetown. Kal­lon said he did not know whether the can­celled con­tract would lead to fi­nan­cial im­pli­ca­tions, and Sierra Leone re­mained on good terms with China. “As (a) sov­er­eign state, I do have the right to take the best de­ci­sion for the coun­try,” he told the BBC’s Fo­cus on Africa pro­gramme. Crit­ics say China is lur­ing coun­tries into debt traps by lend­ing them money for mas­sive in­fras­truc­ture projects. But China has de­nied claims that it is lead­ing coun­tries into a debt trap.

Former Sierra Leone Pres­i­dent Ernest Bai Koroma (left) stepped down from power in April

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