SHANGHAI (Reuters) - China has approved 152 infrastructure projects worth a combined 3.75 trillion yuan ($549.39 billion) in its western regions since late 2012, a senior official at the state planning agency said on Thursday.
China has been investing heavily on transportation infrastructure in a bid to boost development, ease poverty and better integrate its remote and sometimes restive western regions into the national economy.
“Major projects have always been a powerful measure to promote development in the west,” said Xiao Weiming, head of the western development office of the National Development and Reform Commission.
Fifty two major projects had already been completed with the remaining 100 set to be finished by 2023, Xiao told a briefing in Beijing.
The projects include 12 new airports at a total cost of 162.4 billion yuan, as well as roads and railways, water diversion facilities and hydroelectric power stations, Xiao said.
By 2023, China’s western regions will have an additional 8,751 kilometres of highways, 3,219 kilometres of new high-speed rail and 187 gigawatts of new generation capacity, he added.
China’s vast western regions include the politically sensitive regions of Tibet, Xinjiang and Inner Mongolia as well as the major hydropower and farming provinces of Sichuan and Yunnan in the southwest. They account for 20 percent of the country’s total gross domestic product.
Xiao said economic growth in western regions slowed in the first half of this year, mostly due to a decline in fixed asset investment.
He said the regions were struggling to find new entry points into China’s fiercely competitive manufacturing sector, and also faced increasing constraints on land and capital.
The regions needed to strengthen economic ties with neighbouring countries in central or southeast Asia and work to ease their dependence on heavy industries, Xiao said.
($1 = 6.8258 yuan)
Reporting by David Stanway; Editing by Darren Schuettler