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Quake-hit Sichuan draws overseas investment
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The investment environment of quake-hit Sichuan Province had experienced increasing foreign investment in the past few months, said a local official at an investment fair in China's eastern Fujian Province.

"The provincial government had emphasized both relief work and development after the fatal earthquake," said Huang Xiaoxiang, vice governor of the southwestern Sichuan Province, at a special investment seminar held for the quake-hit province in the coastal Xiamen City.

In the first seven months, the contract volume of foreign investment in the province increased 30 percent year-on-year and four more international companies among the top 500 global corporations had set-up operations, Huang said.

Currently, 139 top 500 global corporations were operating in Sichuan.

Since the May 12 quake that killed 69,226 people, more than 90 percent of the major enterprises in the province had resumed operation and 93 percent of businesses and service networks had been restored, he said.

In addition, the provincial gross domestic product (GDP) in the first half had reached 538.85 billion yuan (about 78.7 billion U.S. dollars), up9.1 percent year-on-year.

The export and import volume of Sichuan in the January to July period had increased 58.4 percent compared to the same time last year.

"Sichuan is still in need of a large amounts of funding despite the efforts of the central government, local governments and other social sectors," Huang said.

Larger investment would be drawn by the need for 1.67 trillion yuan in reconstruction funds after the devastating quake that cost the province more than 1.1 trillion yuan, he added.

The total funds, including those the central and other provincial governments had raised, in addition to overseas donations and lottery earnings, accounted for less than 25 percent of what the reconstruction work demanded.

Huang said the province would rebuild 4.5 million urban and rural homes, 51,000 km of highway, 5,500 km of railway, 11,700 schools and 9,700 medical institutions.

In addition, 2,000 reservoirs, 810 power stations and more than100,000 hectares of farmland needed restoration.

The reconstruction, expected to consume 37 million tonnes of steel, 370 million tonnes of cement and 210 billion bricks, among other materials, provided great opportunities for both domestic and overseas investors, he noted.

Huang said it wouldn't be a simple reconstruction process but a chance for industrial restructuring and promotion. Some industries that had previously been ignored would be explored after the quake.

In total, 39 rural and mountainous areas in the province had suffered seriously while potential still lay in the core economic zone in Chengdu, the capital, Deyang and Mianyang cities, which hadn't been fatally damaged in the quake, he said.

The national government had also issued a series of policies to support the reconstruction, covering governmental funds, financial and tax preferential policies, resources supplies and subsidized loans.

The reconstruction had attracted worldwide attention, including that of McKinsey and Company, a global management consulting firm focused on solving issues of concern to senior management.

The company issued its "Preliminary report on international investment and assistance needs in Sichuan's post-quake reconstruction" after a thorough investigation of the seriously-hit areas.

It said Sichuan's reconstruction provided opportunities for industries in electronic information, manufacturing, energy and gas suppliers, chemical engineering, food and medical supplies.

More investigations had been made by international companies such as computer giant Cisco Systems and Honeywell, a major U.S. conglomerate that produced consumer products, engineering services and aerospace systems.

Accompanied by other organizations, such as the American Red Cross, the companies were led by Skip Kissinger, director of the General Development Office and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).

Government agency USAID has provided economic and humanitarian assistance worldwide on behalf of the United States for more than 40 years.

Top-level companies, including Dell, Cisco and General Electronic (GE) were also planning to set up Sichuan branches. GE planned to establish a regional headquarter there.

"We are confident with the reconstruction. Some of our members have made plans to enhance the development of quake-hit Sichuan," said Harley Seyedin, AmCham South China chairman.

"The companies will not only help the development of Sichuan but also benefit from the reconstruction," added Governor Huang Xiaoxiang.

(Xinhua News Agency September 10, 2008)

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