China is helping to build a road less than 180 kilometers long in the small European Balkan country of Montenegro, where Chinese workers have cut mountains and bridges and built up to 41 kilometers, the project ran out of funds and the next budget is not yet available. According to the agreement between Montenegro and China, if Montenegro defaults on the contract, China will take the fortress mortgage of Montenegro’s infrastructure, etc. Despite the local tendency to look on the bright side, AFP refers to “debt trap diplomacy”.
The small country of Montenegro took out a loan from China to build a highway, a brand new road that disappears into a tunnel above a quiet mountain village in Montenegro, a village that doesn’t quite look like the end of the road for a road that was built with $1 billion in Chinese funding. The debt owed to China is hitting the small country’s economy. Agence France-Presse says Montenegro is either learning the debt trap.
According to AFP, the Montenegrin government has burned through $944 million in Chinese loans to complete just the first 41-kilometer section of the road. This section of the road has also become one of the most expensive roads in the world. Chinese workers spent six years tunneling through the hard local mountain walls and erecting towering concrete pillars between canyons to hold up the road that actually leads nowhere else.
The road has nearly 130 kilometers of unfinished length and will cost at least another $1.2 billion.
Dragan, a 67-year-old retiree, said, “The construction is breathtaking, but it’s like buying an expensive car and having it parked in a garage.”
Critics have questioned where the funding for the road’s continued construction will come from, pointing to the environmental damage it will cause and allegations of corruption in the construction contract.
However, locals tend to look on the bright side, according to the report. One of the villagers said, “There is a good side for our villagers. Some people can sell their land and leave here because of this. This was not possible in the past.” His two-story building is just a few meters away from the towering concrete pillars.
The road, which connects Matyxefo to a town near the capital Podgorica, is the most difficult section and is scheduled to open in November. However, the road is intended to connect Montenegro’s southern Adriatic port of Bar to the northern Serbian border, and it is hoped that the Serbian government will extend the road to the capital Belgrade. It is not yet clear where the funding for the continuation of the road will come from, and how a country with a gross domestic production of 4.9 billion euros will repay the huge debt it currently owes to China.
According to the contract seen by AFP, if Montenegro is unable to pay its debts, it will face arbitration by Beijing and fear being forced to hand over control of important infrastructure.
According to AFP, critics are worried that Beijing will use the financial loans to consolidate its political power, the so-called “debt-trap diplomacy”.