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Feb 08, 2008

China promises to contract with locals as it takes over Taiwanese projects in Malawi

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The People's Republic of China says it will hire contractors from within the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) region to complete the projects that were abandoned by Taiwanese contractors following Taiwan's termination of its funding for Malawi projects.

Taiwan, which had been offering financial assistance to Malawi in several areas, including health, agriculture, transport and public works, withdrew its assistance following Malawi's switch of diplomatic allegiance in favour of Taiwan's political rival, the People's Republic of China.

The major projects that the Taiwanese had been funding include construction of a multimillion-dollar parliamentary complex in Lilongwe and the $45-million Karonga–Chitipa, road in the northern region of the country, which started in June last year.

China, which reportedly dangled a $6-billion financial package to Malawi to persuade the impoverished Southern African country to dump Taiwan and embrace it as a diplomatic ally, has offered to continue funding all the projects that its political rival had been funding in Malawi and to provide funds for new projects.

Malawi's Minister of Transport and Public Works, Henry Mussa, says a delegation from China has already visited Malawi to assess the projects abandoned by the Taiwanese.

"We are seeking contractors for all the projects abandoned by Taiwanese contractors, including construction of the Karonga–Chitipa road. We have opted to hire contractors from the SADC region, in countries which have ties with China, because it would take more time to hire Chinese contractors. A contractor from the region would mobilise equipment within 30 days to start the work, which would be difficult for a contractor from as far as China," says Mussa.

Mussa says China wants construction of the 107-km Karonga–Chitipa road to be completed in two years, and not in four years, as the Taiwanese had planned.

He says the Malawi government has also agreed with China that the road be extended from Chitipa into Zambia so that it can play a major role in cross-boarder trade between the two countries.

On the construction of the Parliamentary complex, Mussa says engineers from China have recommended that the first phase be completed in November this year.

"The Chinese delegation assessed the work done on the Parliament building. The remaining works that need immediate funding include electrical, structural and civil engineering," says Mussa.

Meanwhile, the Taiwan embassy in Malawi is selling off its buildings in the capital, Lilongwe, including its offices in the city centre as it tries to meet the 30-day deadline set by the Malawi government for the Taiwanese mission to leave the Southern African country.

A spokesperson for the embassy, Elliot Jiang, says the Taiwanese are selling the buildings and property through a competitive bidding process.

"We want to sell the buildings as a package. Those who will buy the houses will also get the property inside the buildings," says Jiang.

Malawi and the China agreed to establish diplomatic relations with effect from December 28, 2007, after Malawi severed its ties with Taiwan.

Malawi's announcement that it was embracing the mainland as a diplomatic ally followed reports of a landslide victory in Taiwan's legislative elections for the opposition Kuomintang Party, which supports close ties with China.

Edited by: Martin Zhuwakinyu
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