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Wednesday, 18 February 2009

Financial crisis deepening: Hu

PORT-LOUIS - THE impact of the economic crisis is deepening and will hit developing nations particularly hard, Chinese President Hu Jintao warned on Monday as he embarked on the final leg of a tour of Africa.

A day after inking deals worth more than US$20 million (S$30 million) in Tanzania, Mr Hu called on rich nations to help African countries cope with the downturn before flying to Mauritius, the last stop on a four-nation trip to the continent.

'The impact of the crisis on economies around the world is still deepening and its grave consequences will be felt more in the days to come,' he said in a speech at a town hall gathering in the Tanzanian capital Dar es Salaam.

'It has put developing countries in a particularly disadvantaged position Many African friends are concerned that in the face of the daunting challenges of the financial crisis, their international developing partners may scale back aid, debt relief and investment in Africa.

'The developed countries should assume their responsibilities and obligations, continue to deliver their aid, debt relief commitments, maintain and increase assistance to developing countries and effectively help them maintain financial stability and economic growth,' he added.

On Sunday, the Chinese president signed deals with his Tanzanian counterpart Jakaya Kikwete totaling US$21.9 million covering agriculture, communications and technical cooperation.

Mr Hu arrived Monday in Mauritius where he is to pen two agreements to finance infrastructure in the Indian Ocean island, home to the biggest Chinese diaspora in Africa, with more than 30,000 nationals of Chinese origin.

He was welcomed by Prime Minister Navinchandra Ramgoolam. On Tuesday he will meet a Mauritian government delegation led by Ramgoolam then visit a Chinese cultural centre before winding up his visit later in the day.

'During the Chinese president's visit, two deals will be signed to finance the enlargment of an airport and other infrastructure,' said Suresh Seeballuck, the cabinet secretary. China has funded several projects on the Indian Ocean island since 1972 when Mauritius switched its diplomatic allegiance from Taipei to Beijing.

'Mauritius is intensifying its efforts so that much of the Chinese investment in Africa goes through Mauritius,' Finance Minister Rama Sithanen said.

Head of Mauritius' chamber of commerce Charles Lee said: 'This visit shows a strong friendship between China and Mauritius, a small country without natural resources.' Mauritius' imports from China were worth more than 300 million dollars by September 2008, while Beijing has also invested in the island's textile and communication sectors. -- AFP

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