Maithripala Sirisena calls it a ‘gift’ from President Xi Jinping

Chinese President Xi Jinping has offered Sri Lanka a fresh grant of two billion yuan ($295 million), as Beijing tries to expand its influence in the island-nation.

President Maithripala Sirisena of Sri Lanka, a partner in China’s Belt and Road project, made the announcement on Saturday at a ceremony to mark the start of construction of a Chinese-funded kidney hospital in his home constituency of Polonnaruwa.

“When the Chinese Ambassador visited my house to fix the date for this ceremony, he said that Chinese President Xi Jinping sent me another gift,” Mr. Sirisena told the gathering. “He has gifted two billion yuan to be utilised for any project of my wish. I’m going to hand over a proposal to the Chinese Ambassador to build houses in all the electorates in the country,” he added.

The grant offer comes at a time when a Chinese firm is facing heavy criticism for allegedly financing the last election campaign of former President Mahinda Rajapaksa.

Mr. Sirisena had at the start of his term suspended most of the Chinese-backed infrastructure projects started under Mr. Rajapaksa over suspected corruption, overpricing and for flouting government procedures. But more than a year later, the Sirisena government allowed Chinese projects to resume after a few changes in some of them.

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