Sat, Aug 12, 2017 - Page 3 News List

Guatemala request for help still being looked at: official

Staff writer, with CNA

The government is still evaluating a request by Guatemala for further assistance on a major highway project and has not made any commitments on the matter, a Ministry of Foreign Affairs official said on Thursday.

The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the first three phases of the Jacobo Arbenz highway project were carried out with engineering and financial assistance from Taiwan, and Guatemala is hoping that the nation will help with the fourth phase of construction.

However, in the absence of a substantial plan on Guatemala’s side, Taiwan cannot promise anything at present, the official said.

The official also confirmed that Guatemala had requested other monetary aid, but said it was turned down because the ministry is operating on a tight annual budget of NT$24.4 billion (US$803.7 million).

Belizean newspaper Amandala on Monday reported that Taipei had approved a “mega-financing package” for the US$680 million highway project in Guatemala.

The newspaper, which cited reports in Guatemalan media, said Taiwan had promised Guatemala a grant of US$250 million and a 30-year loan of US$350 million to build the highway.

Taiwan’s funding to Guatemala “is 10 times more than what it is providing to Belize,” it added.

“The Taiwanese care more about our neighbors,” a Belizean was quoted as saying. “Shouldn’t then Belize investigate if China, mainland China, wants to be friendly with Belize?”

Belizean media earlier reported that Minister of Foreign Affairs David Lee (李大維) had signed a memorandum of understanding with Belize during a visit last month, promising an aid package of US$60 million over four years.

Of that amount, US$20 million is to be treated as a grant and the remaining US$40 million as a loan, the media reported.

Commenting on the Amandala report, ministry spokeswoman Eleanor Wang (王珮玲) late on Wednesday confirmed that Guatemala had requested a monetary grant, but said it is “totally impossible” for Taiwan to make such as promise, given the government’s difficult financial situation.

Asked about the possibility of Belize switching diplomatic recognition to Beijing, ministry spokesman Andrew Lee (李憲章) said communication between Taiwan and Belize remained smooth and bilateral projects were proceeding as usual.

Guatemala and Belize are two of the nation’s 20 diplomatic allies.

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