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SUVA, Fiji (Fijilive, Jan. 31, 2008) - China is to give Fiji an undisclosed sum of aid money, which is to go towards the building of infrastructure (bridges and rural roads) and the construction of better homes for squatters.

Fiji’s interim Minister of Finance Mahendra Chaudhry and the Chinese Ambassador Cai Jinbiao signed the banking agreement between the two countries this morning at the Ministry of Finance.

Chaudhry says the aid money to be given to Fiji is yet to be quantified.

It is unclear which project is to receive the first aid money. All projects identified will have to be mutually agreed upon by both governments before the money is released.

Speaking at the signing, Chaudhry says the aim of the agreement is to facilitate the disbursement of aid money which has been made available to Fiji by China under a technical and economic cooperation agreement which was signed in April 2007 between the two governments.

He says the provision under the agreement was for Chinese aid to be given to Fiji and this aid money will be spent on projects which are mutually agreed between the two governments.

The expenditure from this aid fund will have to be sanctioned by both governments by mutual consent, he added.

The banking agreement signed this morning was to facilitate the transfer of funds from China to Fiji and disbursement of funds here in Fiji and the accounting of those funds to the Chinese government.

For his part, the Chinese ambassador Cai Jinbiao expressed his government’s sympathy to the victims of Tropical Cyclone Gene that struck early this week.

He says the aid money will be for such projects as the Navuso Bridge which he hopes would start soon. Currently, the Public Works Department is preparing the ground so that construction work on the bridge could start. The money is also expected to go to other infrastructure projects damaged by Cyclone Gene, he added.

Chaudhry said that the interim Government has identified some projects on which they will have to consult with the representatives of the Chinese Government.

These projects largely relate to the rural sector including the rehabilitation of rural roads and housing, he said.

"We have a large squatter population. We would like to resettle them in better living conditions.

"There may be others but consultation on those projects will take place. And upon agreement, the projects will go ahead."

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