Naming of streets is now an important issue which the Ghana government has begun to embark upon. However the impact is trivial and educational awareness is unpopular. As a young Ghanaian growing up in a suburb of Accra, I vividly remember the houses were constantly receiving new house numbers like K 123/V, then T 342/C but the street names were missing.  All these years I don’t remember directing someone using the house number or street names.

In my part of Ghana; we gave directions to people by using descriptions; take the bus to Kasoa, a light at the Goil Petrol Station, you see the Pentecost church in front of you, turn right, you will see a lotto kiosk, then turn again left you see a big white house with a blue gate, you see a young lady selling Waakye, ask her of Antie Maamle.

Unfortunately, I wasn’t privileged to grow up in the airport residential areas where one could notice some orderliness.

In Germany, it is Mönckebergstraße 1, 20095 Hamburg; Trust me, it is unique. 

Nevertheless the average Ghanaian in Hamburg is still using the same Ghana method of description. Take the U1, get out after 4 stops, and then take the bus 4, after 4 stops you see a Penny Markt, opposite is a tall story building. The truth is we enjoy giving such descriptions.

But one would have expected that a developing nation should progress in this direction of naming streets and Houses. Naming of streets, houses and properties is essential if Ghana wants to develop effectively and efficiently.

Street addressing system involves naming streets and numbering of both developed and undeveloped properties along them, that is to say streets and properties are allocated official addresses. It makes it possible and easy to locate a plot or property. This goes with several other advantages; easy identification of locations, helps quicker response of emergency services from the fire fighters and police emergency services. Efficient postal delivery and faster business operations.

A unique house numbering also goes with other benefits like statistical data collection, tax collection, improving navigation system which makes it easier for people to find their way around in cities or towns and google mapping amongst others.

Street naming has other traditional significance, acknowledging prominent citizens and distinguished people and also paying tribute to those who have given distinguished service to their respective communities or country at large.  Younger generations are thereby motivated to attain similar goals and have streets named after them.

The questions is why hasn’t Ghana taken advantage of the numerous benefits that goes with street naming and house numbering. A presidential decree in that direction has still not yielded the required results.

The following challenges could be identified, irresponsible issuing of building permits for property development without proper planning.

Issuing permits without taking into account the nature of land and the immediate environment (water ways, drainage, paths and roads). Physical developments on unapproved layouts is common, therefore, a considerable number of developed properties have no permits as well as addresses.

I have always insisted there is no shortcut to development, for Ghana to become a developed country, what ought to be done right has to be done.   Poor housing and property development due to irresponsible issuing of permits and disregard for laid down regulation affects correct street naming and house numbering, which finally have negative impact on the movement of goods and waste of time. 

Besides there is no political will on leaders to do the right thing neither do they pay attention to educational awareness?  

An abstract of the book "The History of Ghanaians in Germany"
Chapter 33 Ghana -The Way Forward



Compiled by
Desmond John Beddy -/TopAfric Media Network

Fighting disinformation and raising awareness of the risks of exile: These are the goals of the Saloum Rapatak association, which has been active in Senegal for more than seven years. Jimane – whose real name is Ousmane Thioune – is a radio host and the president of Saloum Rapatak, an organisation based in the city of Kaolack, 189 kilometres southwest from the Senegalese capital of Dakar. He tells Leslie Carretero how his organization raises awareness of the dangers of illegal migration.

What is the role of Saloum Rapatak?

We want the Senegalese people to stay and invest in their country. Young people are the future. If they leave, who will run Senegal in the years to come? Who will take care of the fields? Senegal is not a poor country; one can work the land or raise livestock. We are in a stable country, not at war. We must believe in ourselves and invest here!

Through concerts, radio shows and forums, we educate young people about the risks of immigration. We go to meet the residents of the villages in the region. They are the least informed, it is important that they know the reality of exile and that they can have a future in Senegal. Migrants who have returned to Senegal after experiencing hell share their experiences. Some, for example, went all the way to Mali, just to return home after having become aware of the dangers.

Why is there such a need to raise awareness?

Young people leave here every week in the hope of reaching Europe. But they don’t know what awaits them on their route. Smugglers organize departures from Kaolack in the shadows, and lie to those wishing to leave. They tell them that everything will be fine and that the journey is safe, but that is not the case.

Senegalese youths detained in a prison for irregular migrants in Libya, where the conditions have been described as horrible. Many embark on the journey unaware of the dangers on the way / Photo: IRIN

The traffickers take the migrants by bus to Mali, and then on to Niger. From there migrants cross the desert in often catastrophic conditions. Arriving in Libya, they are entrusted to another man. In war-torn Libya, weapons are prevalent. It’s very dangerous. And people from sub-Saharan Africa are frequently mistreated there. One young man told me he had been attacked in the street and put in prison by the militia. Once he was locked up, they tortured him and asked his family to send money in exchange for his release. People have to know what’s going on there so they don’t listen to what the smugglers tell them.

Another problem comes from Senegalese immigrants themselves. They don’t talk about the problems they experience but instead glorify their situations. We are fighting many forms of disinformation.

Why did you launch this project?

About 10 years ago I learned that friends had left by bus from the central market in Kaolack, heading for Europe. They lived well in Senegal, they had a nice life. I said to myself, “These people are crazy. Why leave everything from one day to the next?” I haven’t heard from them since. I think they are dead. I think it’s terrible.

World Sight Day (WSD) is a global event that focuses attention on blindness and vision impairment. Observed on the second Thursday of October each year, the primary goals of WSD are to raise public awareness of blindness and vision impairment as major public health challenges, to influence governments to participate in and commit funds to programs which target blindness prevention or sight restoration programs, and to educate the public on blindness prevention, and to generate support for VISION 2020-related programs. On this day, all major professional groups involved in eye care delivery; the Ghana Optometric Association, The Ophthalmological Society of Ghana, and the Ophthalmic Nurses Group organize programs to commemorate the occasion.

As WSD is observed, it is rational that the state of eye care and visual disability/impairment is made known to stake holders involved in eye care delivery and the public at large. This article thus seeks to discuss briefly, eye care delivery in Ghana with emphasis on human resource, epidemiology of visual impairment/blindness and some impacts of visual impairment.

Eye care delivery in Ghana
Eye care services in Ghana are rendered by government hospitals and clinics, facilities within the Christian Health Association of Ghana (CHAG), and private facilities (Drislane, Akpalu, & Wegdam, 2014). Approximately one-third of Ghana’s health facilities are operated under private ownership. In fact, a McKinsey study in 2008 found that over 50% of health service provision in Ghana is delivered by the private sector.

The eye care team in Ghana primarily comprises ophthalmologists, optometrists, and ophthalmic nurses. Currently, there are 91 ophthalmologists, 370 optometrists, and about 500 ophthalmic nurses in the country. These numbers are woefully inadequate for a country with a population of about 27 million people. Compounding the issue of inadequate eye care professionals is the inequity in the distribution of available care professionals. According to 2013 Ghana Health Service statistics, about 75% of eye care professionals are concentrated in the urban areas leaving rural dwellers with limited access to eye care.

The country’s eye care system is financed by four main sources: Government of Ghana, internally generated funds, development assistance for health, and out-of-pocket expenditures made by households. Overall, the health care delivery system in Ghana is seemingly underdeveloped with significant proportion of the population having limited access to basic health care services.

Epidemiology of blindness and visual impairment in Ghana
Ghana has a seemingly higher prevalence of visual disability. According to World Health Organization estimates, the prevalence of visual impairment in Ghana is 27 per 1,000 population (approximately 720,000 people) and prevalence of blindness of 9 per 1,000 population. Approximately 1% of the Ghanaian population suffers severe visual impairment (Ghana National Blindness and Visual Impairment Study, GNBVIS, 2017).

Overall, cataract is the leading cause of blindness in Ghana, accounting for 45 - 50% of the burden of blindness in 2013. The prevalence has marginally increased as a more recent survey conducted between February 2015 and November 2016 by the GNBVIS Group found a cataract prevalence rate of 54.8%, translating to approximately 112,000 cases of blindness resulting from cataract. According to a 2008 report of the National Eye Care Unit (NECU), approximately 48,000 new cases of cataract blindness are recorded each year in the country.

Glaucoma is the leading cause of irreversible blindness in Ghana. The country ranks high among the most affected countries in the world for glaucoma. A study by Ntim-Amponsah and colleagues found the prevalence of glaucoma among adult Ghanaian population is 8.4%, second only to St. Lucia’s 8.8%. The seemingly higher prevalence of glaucoma visual impairment could partly be attributed to late presentation of patients to eye care facilities. For instance, a survey at Bawku Presbyterian Hospital found that among patients seen for the first time and diagnosed of glaucoma, 34% were irreversibly blind (GHS, 2013).

Refractive errors (short-sightedness, long-sightedness, and astigmatism) remain the leading cause of visual impairment blindness in Ghana. In the recent study by the GNBVIS Group to profile blindness and visual impairment in Ghana, refractive error was found to be the leading cause of visual impairment in Ghana, accounting for 44.4% percent of visual impairment cases.

According to data at NECU, the topmost 5 eye conditions seen in Ghana, based on number of patients seen in outpatient departments: are acute red eye, refractive error, cataract, glaucoma, and uveitis. In fact, acute eye conditions rank among the top 10 causes of outpatient morbidity in the country.

Prevalence of visual disability is higher in rural regions than urban regions. The lower accessibility of eye care professionals and facilities (GHS, 2013) could account for the uneven distribution of the prevalence of visual disability in Ghana. The fact that poverty has a significant association with visual disability, and most of the 24.2% of the population who live under the poverty line inhabit deprived, rural areas (Central Intelligence Agency, 2016) also explains this pattern of distribution of visual impairment.

Several factors account for this seemingly high prevalence of visual impairment in Ghana. The overall limited number of eye care professionals in Ghana is a major contributing factor to visual disability in Ghana. Most eye diseases and conditions such as refractive errors, trachoma, cataract, and to an extent, glaucoma results in disability only when the affected is unable to access eye care services. With the limited eye care workforce in a country with a positive annual population growth, the prevalence of visual impairment is not expected to reduce significantly anytime soon. Self-medication and reliance of unorthodox eye care practices by some people also contributes to the higher prevalence of visual impairment resulting from infection. There are several anecdotal reports people resorting to the use of breast milk, sea water, urine, and herbs as forms of medication to treat certain eye infections. These practices perhaps delay case resolution, worsen the conditions and subsequently results in impairment.

Impacts of Visual impairment
Visual impairment has negative impacts on the affected individuals and the nation at large. Visual impairment causes a considerable economic burden (direct and indirect) for affected persons, their caregivers and society at large. Direct economic loss to the affected persons and their care givers derives from the considerable costs incurred in the provision of surgical and non-surgical interventions. Indirect economic loss results from considerable absenteeism at work due an affected person’s inability to work or a caregiver’s unavailability to work, resulting in diminished economic productivity (Köberlein, et al., 2013). More often than not, persons with blindness are unable to partake in economic discourse with the end result being extreme poverty. In fact, a positive association has been found between productivity loss among caregivers and the magnitude of visual impairment since time spent by caregivers increases with the extent of vision loss.

In addition to the aforementioned, also affected by visual impairment are one’s mental health and cognitive abilities. In fact, persons with visual impairment have higher risk for depression, anxiety, and other psychological problems (Kempen et al., 2012). Visual impairment also impacts negatively academic attainment. It is worthy of note that children with visual impairment are more likely to have poor academic performance (Kulp et al., 2016). Uncorrected refractive errors are largely implicated in visual impairments’ association with poor academic performance. Children with uncorrected refractive errors may experience blurred vision, headache during reading, sore eyes, itchy eyes and tearing. School children with these symptoms have a propensity to be less engaged in academic-related activities, hence the diminished academic attainment.

Last but not least, visual impairment significantly affects the activities of daily living (reading, socializing, pursuing hobbies, etc.) of persons with visual impairment. It results in loss of social independence and reduction in mobility which leads to reduction in one’s quality of life (QOL). It must be stressed that QOL diminishes with the onset of visual impairment (Rein et al., 2007).

Visual impairment is a bane of Ghana’s socioeconomic development. The government of Ghana and all stakeholders in the eye care delivery system should be more proactive in efforts to make eye care more accessible to underserved areas and to reduce the spate of visual disability. Equally important is the need for all the eye care professional sub-groups to forge greater collaborations to maximize their output in the quest to reduce the overall prevalence rates of blindness and visual impairment in Ghana.

Contributing Authors:
Dr. Kwaku A. Osei, O.D.
Dr. Justice A. Akpabla, O.D.
Dr. Yvonne Adu-Agyeiwaah, O.D.

His Excellency President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo who was on official visit to Germany at the invitation of the Chancellor Angela Merkel had a town hall meeting with the Ghanaian Community on Sunday, the 11th of June 2017 at the M'a'ritim HotelHotel in Berlin.

The meeting by all standards was very successful. The president was highly impressed by the huge attendance and thanked Ghanaians in Germany for their immense contribution in making him the President of the republic of Ghana.

“Beloved citizens of Ghana, I want to assure you that Ghana is not a poor country, we failed to set our priorities right, we haven’t managed our human capital and resources well. My government is in to address these deficits and also fight corruption in our country. I want to remain in the History Books of Ghana as the President who made outstanding and visionary promises to my people and fulfilled them.

My government has assembled the best men and women of this great country who will work tirelessly to make Ghana great gain. He went on to say his government seems to be doing something that is catching the attention of the rest of the world and Germany particularly. Ghana has been selected among three African countries and whose leaders are attending G20 Summit, and we have secured €100 million grant for the nation”.

The president who spoke later in the evening took time to answer the questions posed to his delegation by Mr. William Nketia, President, Union of Ghanaian Associations in Germany (UGAG)

The first of the questions was on (ROPAL) the right of Ghanaians abroad to vote. The President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo assured Ghanaians living abroad of readiness to work with them to safeguard the full implementation of the Representation of the People’s Amendment Law (ROPAL). He however made it clear that, only the Electoral Commission has the right to implement the Ropal bill, hence the Diasporas should adopt an advocacy approach, “Make more Noise”

On the question of Dual Citizenship, the president promised Ghanaians that the time is due, and that his government will champion the cause. The crowd was constantly applauding the president.

The third major question was the high cost of Passport and Visa; the question was handled by the Hon. Shirley Ayorkor Botchwey (MP), Minister for Foreign Affairs and Regional Integration, who could be mistaken for a beauty queen. She told the impatient gathering that the prices will be reviewed by parliament and that Ghanaians should not hold the Ghana mission responsible. 

Ghanaians have problem understanding why prices in Germany as compared to other European countries were extremely high. 

Ghana entry Visa fee 2016 -/Single Entry
Germany: 100€ Holland: 60€  France: 50€ Belgium: 70€ England:  60£

The plain truth is that Ghanaians holding German Passports are technically not Ghanaians. No government easily wants to loose hard earned foreign currency. Ghanaian-/Germans wants to eat their cakes and have it...

Mrs. Gina Blay, Ghana’s Ambassador to Germany, who is yet to present her letters of credence to the German government, was introduced to the gathering. She appeared very calm and the president praised her as a good listener. The community welcomed her and promised to give her the necessary support that will make her succeed.

Ken Ofori Atta, the Minister of Finance gave a brief account of the economy, “We were able to raise $2.2 billion on the local market, this has brought some stability into the economy and helped stabilized the cedi, he said softly.

Mr. Francis D. Kotia. Ag. Head of Mission, Embassy of Ghana, Germany gave an inspiring speech, he presented Ghanaian in Germany as peace loving, law abiding and hardworking and commended the president for his quest to move fast with his desire to make a change. Mr. President, your vision of inviting the past president went viral and made Ghanaians in Germany proud.  

The GHASPORA project was also presented to the delegation, the core objective was aid the government in adding value to agricultural products and to partner government to invest in the recycle sector of the economy.

The Social Entrepreneur, Mr. Desmond John Beddy was applauded for his outstanding social interventions in promoting awareness among students of African origin on the importance and significance of education for their social and professional integration in Germany. He has over a decade held the Ghanaian Flag very high in Germany.

Also at the meeting was Director of Protocol Amb. Hassan Ahmed, Executive Secretary to the President, Nana Asante-Bediatuo, the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Ghana Investment Promotion Centre (GIPC), Yoofi Grant. The president was grateful to the Ghanaian community who came from all parts of Germany to meet and interact with him.

Mr. Samuel Adotey Anum, Minister/Head of Consular and Mr. Michael Nyaaba Assibi, First Secretary /Political and Diaspora and the junior staffs of the Ghana Embassy in Berlin really put up a good event. The well-organized show was a clear indication of good a working relationship between the embassy and the community leadership.

Nana Oti Atakora Boadum III, the Akwamuhene of Asante-Mampong Traditional Area gave vote of Thanks. The gathering was moderated by Ms. Portia Agyeiwaah Okai-Neyeh of Radio TopAfric and Nana Owusu Kyekye Ababio of Radio Africa.

Opening prayer was done by Pastor Jerry Aidoo of Gospel Believers International Church-Berlin and closing prayers by Scheick Imam Hussein, Islam Africa e.V, Berlin.

God Bless Ghana!
God Bless Germany!
Photos:  Ebenezer Quansah, Video: Yanick Nsigi
Topafric Media Network

The Special Chamber of the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea, constituted to deal with the dispute concerning delimitation of the maritime boundary between Ghana and Côte d'Ivoire in the Atlantic Ocean (Ghana/Côte d'Ivoire), will deliver its Judgment at 11 a.m. on Saturday, 23 September 2017.

The Judgment will be read by Judge Boualem Bouguetaia, President of the Special Chamber. The Judgment will be read at a public sitting. The reading of the Judgment will be broadcast live on ITLOS’s website.

In September 2014, the Government of Ghana dragged Côte d'Ivoire to ITLOS in Hamburg, Germany, after the francophone neighbour began laying claim to some offshore oil concessions and adjoining seabed being developed and exploited by various companies, including Tullow Oil plc., within Ghana’s territory.

Ghana’s resort to ITLOS under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) followed 10 failed attempts at negotiations between the two countries. Ghana wants ITLOS to declare that it had not encroached on Ivory Coast’s territorial waters. Ghana filed its suit based on Article 287 Annex VII of the 1982 UNCLOS.

Côte d'Ivoire, in February 2015, filed for preliminary measures urging the tribunal to suspend all activities on the disputed area until the definitive determination of the case, dubbed: “Dispute Concerning Delimitation of the Maritime Boundary between Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire in the Atlantic Ocean.”

Ghana maintained that Côte d'Ivoire began issuing threatening letters to oil companies operating in the disputed area after millions of dollars had been invested to develop the affected oilfields.
Exploration and exploitation work on the Tweneboah-Enyera-Ntoumme (TEN) project being operated by Tullow Oil Plc., and its partners would have been affected had the tribunal ordered a suspension of all activities.

However, in April 2015, ITLOS, in its provisional measures, said ongoing projects in the disputed fields, including the $7.5-billion TEN project could proceed while the substantive case was being dealt with, but ordered that Ghana should not start new explorations within the same fields.

The provisional measures followed legal and technical representations made by both countries at ITLOS’s Special Chamber in Hamburg, Germany, on March 29 and 30, 2015, after which ITLOS ruled thus:

(1) Unanimously
Prescribes, pending the final decision, the following provisional measures under article 290, paragraph 1, of the Convention:

(a) Ghana shall take all necessary steps to ensure that no new drilling either by Ghana or under its control takes place in the disputed area as defined in paragraph 60;

(b) Ghana shall take all necessary steps to prevent information resulting from past, ongoing or future exploration activities conducted by Ghana, or with its authorisation, in the disputed area that is not already in the public domain from being used in any way whatsoever to the detriment of Côte d’Ivoire;

(c) Ghana shall carry out strict and continuous monitoring of all activities undertaken by Ghana or with its authorisation in the disputed area with a view to ensuring the prevention of serious harm to the marine environment;

(d) The Parties shall take all necessary steps to prevent serious harm to the marine environment, including the continental shelf and its superjacent waters, in the disputed area and shall cooperate to that end;

(e) The Parties shall pursue cooperation and refrain from any unilateral action that might lead to aggravating the dispute.

(2) Unanimously
Decides that Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire shall each submit to the Special Chamber the initial report referred to in paragraph 105 not later than 25 May 2015, and authorises the President of the Special Chamber, after that date, to request such information from the Parties as he may consider appropriate.

(3) Unanimously
Decides that each Party shall bear its own costs.

(signed) Boualem BOUGUETAIA, President of the Special Chamber (signed) Philippe GAUTIER, Registrar

Before ITLOS’s provisional measures, Côte d'Ivoire had, in a 27-page application signed by its Minister of Petroleum and Energy, Mr Adama Toungara, urged the tribunal to also direct Ghana to refrain from granting any new permit for oil exploration and exploitation in the disputed area.

It also prayed the tribunal to direct Ghana to refrain from any unilateral action entailing a risk of prejudice to the rights of Côte d'Ivoire ast and any unilateral action that might lead to aggravating the dispute.

Côte d'Ivoire argued that it would suffer severe and irreparable economic injury if its request was not granted by the tribunal.

It also accused Ghana of attempting to prejudice the tribunal’s decision by going into the merit of the case with volumes of documents and witness statements, but Ghana faulted its neighbour for departing from the law, making baseless accusations, being inconsistent, and failing to produce witnesses and expert evidence.

Ghana also reminded Côte d'Ivoire of its lack of consistency and merit in filing for preliminary measures.

The absence of credible data and evidence from Côte d'Ivoire, according to Ghana, at the time, was due to that country’s handicap in producing factual documents to back its case.

Ghana, which was led by then-Attorney-General and Minister of Justice Mrs Marietta Brew Appiah-Opong, also reminded the tribunal of Côte d'Ivoire’s failure to challenge the evidence of its technical witnesses, which, according to it, tore Côte d'Ivoire’s case in shreds.

“We invite you to firmly decline the application before you,” Mrs Appiah-Opong said, with the argument that Côte d'Ivoire had failed to prove that Ghana had encroached on its territorial waters to warrant the stoppage of activities, including the exploration of oil in the disputed area, until the final determination of the dispute.

“There is no justification in law, logic, and fairness or on the evidence for the measures sought. They will be unprecedented, an invasion of sovereign rights that stand in the face of representations made by Cote d’Ivoire for more than four decades, on which others and we have relied,” she stressed.

Leading a team of local and international lawyers and technical staff from relevant agencies, Mrs Appiah-Opong told ITLOS’s five-member panel that “until Ghana was well advanced with its oil exploration programme on its side of the boundary, there were no difficulties”.

“At the time when Cote d’Ivoire had much more oil and gas production than Ghana, there were no claims about moving the maritime boundary,” she added.

“In 2009, Cote d’Ivoire started to make representations to Ghana about its desire to alter the boundary. Yet, its public position did not change. None of its inconsistent positions has any proper justification in law.”

The tribunal is presided over by Judge Boualem Bouguetaia, with Judge Rudiger Wolfrum, Judge Jin-Hyun Paik, Judge Thomas Mensah and Judge Ronny Abraham as members.

Judges Mensah and Abraham were appointed by Ghana and Ivory Coast, respectively, in accordance with the rules of the tribunal.
The two countries ended their oral submissions in February 2017.

CHINA is "colonising" smaller countries by lending them massive amounts of money they can never repay, it's been claimed. The country is accused of leveraging massive loans it holds over small states worldwide to snatch assets and increase its military footprint. Developing countries from Pakistan to Djibouti, the Maldives to Fiji, all owe huge amounts to China. 

Already there are examples of defaulters being pressured into surrendering control of assets or allowing military bases on their land. Some are calling it "debt-trap diplomacy" or "debt colonialism" - offering enticing loans to countries unable to repay, and then demanding concessions when they default.

Sri Lanka provided a prime example last year. Owing more than $1billion (£786million) in debts to China, Sri Lanka handed over a port to companies owned by the Chinese government on a 99-year lease.

And Djibouti, home to the US military’s main base in Africa, also looks likely to cede control of a port terminal to a Beijing-linked firm. America is eager to stop the Doraleh Container Terminal falling into Chinese hands, particularly because it sits next to China's only overseas military base.

Last March ex-Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Beijing encouraged "dependency using opaque contracts, predatory loan practices, and corrupt deals that mire nations in debt and undercut their sovereignty". A report from The Center for Global Development offers some insight into the spreading China debt.

It shows how infrastructure project loans to the likes of Mongolia, Montenegro and Laos have resulted in millions or even billions in debts, which often account for huge percentages of the countries' GDPs. Many of these projects are linked to the "Belt and Road" initiative - a bold project to create trade routes through huge swathes of Eurasia, with China at the centre.

Participating countries often undertake work on roads and ports with part-funding from China. More recently, China's debt empire has been rearing its head in the Pacific, prompting fears the country intends to leverage the debt to expand its military footprint into the South Pacific.

Beijing's creation of man-made islands in the disputed South China Sea for use as military bases suggests the concern may be warranted. In April China made these intentions more obvious - approaching Vanuatu about setting up a military base.

Australia expressed alarm at this move, which would effectively increase Chinese military presence on a key gateway to Australia’s east coast, The Times reports. Vanuatu owes £191million to China, according to one think tank. Among the projects this money funded was the largest wharf in the South Pacific - considered capable of accommodating aircraft carriers.

Tonga also carries some big debts and has already admitted to struggling with repayments. Tongan PM Akilisi Pohiva said on Wednesday that he was concerned Beijing was preparing to seize assets from his country. He urged other Pacific islands to join voices in calling for loan write-offs.

Two loans from China's Export Import Bank totalling more than £91million equal a quarter of the country's GDP. He told Australia's ABC: “It has become a serious issue. We have debt distress.”

Pohiva said with China debt becoming so prolific, it was no longer a problem to be dealt with individually. He added: “I think these small countries will eventually come together to find a way out.”

China defended its lending practices, saying they were "sincere and unselfish", and insisting it only lent to countries that could repay. Tonga is one among a list of South Pacific countries that have taken on debt in recent years.

Sydney’s Lowy Institute think tank, which has closely monitored China’s activities in the Pacific, estimates Beijing has poured nearly £1.4billion into Pacific countries since 2006. Other big debtors include Papua New Guinea, which owes roughly £498million in development and aid debt, Fiji, which owes £496million, and Samoa, with debt of £181million.
By Gerard du Cann -The Sun

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