After centuries of struggling for constructing its own interoceanic canal with the help of European companies mainly, Nicaragua seems closer than ever before – thanks to China’s resurgence. Nicaragua’s National Assembly has, as expected, approved plans for a Chinese firm (HKDN) to build and run a new waterway to rival the Panama Canal. So is Nicaragua about to become Central America’s richest nation with this canal? Of course, according to Ronald MacLean Abaroa, spokesman of HKDN! What else could be expected when the projected investments surpasses the country’s GDP by four and one million jobs are expected to be created (in a country with an active population of about two million)? Growth, full employment and wealth, baby!
We shall hope so!
Leaving concerns about the environment (I mean, we talk about building a 286km long canal which is 27.6m deep and 520m wide) and Chinese practice of building huge infrastructure projects (transferring and employing Chinese workers mainly instead of locals) in general, aside, leaves us with a bad aftertaste. That the investors follow their proper interests is self-evident – whatever be the national origin of the investing company. So is that it has to be seen in a wider national strategy. Few people really believe in China being an altruistic benefactor. Who considered the U.S. to be that when building the Panama Canal?
The aftertaste, however, comes from a respectably interesting Chinese approach as there are several interoceanic projects that exist simultaneously in the region. And here China plays the main role in all of them. As Sergio Ramírez writes in his interesting article, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua simultaneously negotiate with Chinese partners about such projects. As unrealistic it seems that all of these projects are to be realized (as their transportation capacity would by far exceed the need), as sad it is to see that the already asymmetrical relationship between China and these quarreling small Central American partners is growing.
So we will see who makes the run and if any of these projects is ever going to be built. With the reappearing world economic power the region might be able to do so. We can only hope that locals hold up pressures on their government in order to secure that such projects will be done to the real benefit of the population at least.