China funds major social housing scheme in Nicaragua

Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi visited Nicaragua in February and held talks with presidential adviser Laureano Ortega Murillo (Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the People’s Republic of China)
Work got under way on Sunday on a massive China-financed public housing scheme in the Nicaraguan capital of Managua, Global Times reports

The project is being built by China State Construction Engineering Corporation (CSCEC), and is being billed as the first major scheme to be undertaken with Chinese help after Nicaragua dropped its diplomatic recognition of Taiwan in favour of the People’s Republic in 2021.

The first phase of the 12,034-unit scheme will include 920 affordable homes, a central square, sports fields and supporting infrastructure. The entire scheme is expected to take three years to complete.

The 34ha development is being financed by the China International Development Cooperation Agency, which oversees China’s foreign aid programmes. Its chairman, Luo Zhaohui, said at the groundbreaking ceremony that the scheme was a “testament to the friendship and cooperation between the two sides”.

Also present was Chen Xi, China’s Ambassador to Nicaragua. He said the project would benefit the people of Nicaragua, and would help the country achieve “leapfrog development”.

Laureano Ortega Murillo, coordinator for cooperation with China, and son of Nicaraguan president Daniel Ortega, said local people would be “proud to say that these houses were built with the help of China and in partnership with China”.

The scheme was first announced six weeks after diplomatic relations were established between the two countries. It represents China’s taking over from Taiwan, which had supported similar schemes. The last of these was a “solidarity housing for vulnerable families” programme, which provided 400 homes in 2021.

Following a visit to Managua by top Chinese diplomat Wang Yi in February, provisional agreements were signed with four Nicaraguan state institutions and Chinese mega-contractors including CSCEC, China Communications, China CAMC Engineering and the Power Construction Corporation of China.

These covered roads, ports, railways and hospital infrastructure, as well as water, sanitation and renewable energy.

In recent years China has tried, with some success, to establish relations with a number of Latin American countries that had recognised the Republic of China. In each case, the countries that switched to Beijing received help with construction and civil engineering schemes, such as a bridge and port in Panama, and a national library and football stadium in El Salvador.

Most recently, Honduras switched sides in search of money for its infrastructure-led development efforts (see further reading).

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