Nicaragua wants alternative to Panama
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MANAGUA, July 3 AFP
July 04 2012, 09:53AM
Nicaraguan MPs have approved a law aimed at creating an alternative to the Panama Canal, a $US30 billion ($A29.27 billion) project President Daniel Ortega says will lift the country out of poverty.
"We can make this dream a reality," said Edwin Castro, legislative leader of the majority Sandinista party.
"I don't know if they will find the funding for this canal, but it is hopeful," said opposition legislator Wilfredo Navarro.
The initiative, approved by 85 of 91 MPs, establishes a legal system for the proposed 200-kilometre canal to connect the Atlantic and Pacific oceans.
Plans to build a canal across Nicaragua date back centuries, but were overtaken by the construction of the 82km Panama Canal.
In recent years, however, Nicaraguan governments have revived the concept as a way to promote development in the second poorest country in the Americas after Haiti.
Feasibility studies are expected to cost $350 million, while actual construction could hit $30 billion.
The government is proposing to raise the funds through a public/private partnership, with the state maintaining a 51 per cent stake.
Project leader Eden Pastora said Nicaragua's canal, to be built along one of six proposed routes, would be larger and deeper than the Panama Canal.
That vital waterway is currently undergoing a major $5.25 billion project to expand its choked capacity. The upgrade, set to be completed in 2014, will allow some of the world's largest ships to pass through.
It generated a record $1 billion for Panama in fiscal year 2010-2011 and a total of $6.6 billion since the US handed over control more than a decade ago.