US$1 billion readied for development projects in Portuguese language countries

4 March 2013

The US$1 billion fund for projects in Portuguese language countries will become available “soon”, the assistant secretary-general of Forum Macau, Rita Santos, said during a visit to Portugal.

In Lisbon, Santos met with the office of the President of Portugal and the AICEP Trade and Investment Agency, among others. She told Portuguese news agency Lusa that participation in the fund will be open to other financial institutions beyond those from China.

Projects may focus, for example, on development of the hotel or construction industry in the Portuguese-speaking African countries. They will be studied on a case-by-case basis and the China Development Bank “is open to accepting other banks that want to participate in the fund,” she said.

“It hasn’t been launched yet because it’s a new financing mechanism and there are legal procedures, but it will be soon,” Santos stated.

The Forum Macau official indicated that the fund will not be devoted to granting credit, but rather to “participation in investment”.

“The project must be linked to the economic and social development of each country” so that participation can be effective, she said.

The creation of a “Cooperation Fund for Development between China and the Portuguese Language Countries” was originally announced in 2010 by Prime Minister Wen Jibao at a Forum Macau ministerial conference. It is open to projects involving agriculture and livestock, tourism, infrastructures, trade, education and health, natural resources and services.

The Fund may be launched at the 4th Forum Macau Ministerial Conference scheduled for the third quarter of this year, which should also approve the Forum’s action plan for the next three years – proposals from member countries are now being gathered.

Cape Verde’s ambassador to China, Júlio Morais, recently said he was convinced that the upcoming ministerial meeting will bring “new dynamics” to the organisation. He highlighted creation of the fund.

“We think the fund can instil new dynamics in the Forum, building bridges between business sectors, and that’s precisely the forum’s major challenge. (…) We’re on the right path, with good dynamics,” he told Lusa news agency in Beijing.

At the 8th Entrepreneurs Meeting for Economic and Commercial Cooperation between China and the Portuguese Language Countries, held in June 2012 on Cape Verde’s Sal Island, representatives from the China Development Bank stressed their project analysis and management know-how, based on experience in China’s cooperation fund for Africa.

For Marcelo d’Almeida, the Forum Macau assistant secretary-general representing the Portuguese language countries, that serves to “guarantee that companies will be provided excellent support when planning projects and also enhances the fund’s economic feasibility for projects in a programme clearly and openly decided by all involved.”

“To have an organisation and a country that places such a large amount at the disposal of the group of Forum Macau countries is to open up a gamut of development possibilities for those without capacity for direct investment from the states themselves,” said d’Almeida, cited by Revista Macau.

“Macau is the centre for disseminating and combining all those synergies, from all those encounters. Each presentation, promotion or meeting held which brings together the Forum countries is one more step, small or large. But it’s a step that helps unite and strengthen cooperation ties,” he added.

The Forum is currently celebrating its 10th anniversary, after continual expansion of commercial ties between China and the Portuguese language countries, a group that now includes its biggest trading partner (Brazil) and its second-ranked oil supplier (Angola)

For Rita Santos, the new phase of China’s involvement in the Portuguese language world is being undertaken by private initiative that’s already on the ground, namely in agriculture, more than via cooperation between governments.

“We are now in the most important phase, starting to encourage economic players to launch their own initiatives, (…) to not just depend on projects discussed among governments,” the Forum official said. (macauhub)