Nicaragua is moving closer to granting a Chinese company a 100-year concession to build and operate a canal linking the Atlantic to the Pacific.
Construction of the waterway would take 10 years and cost $40 billion.
Bills opening the way for the project were submitted last Friday to a legislative committee, which began looking at the proposal’s viability before debate in the full Congress.
The bills would give China’s HK Nicaragua Canal Development Investment Co. Limited, which is based in Hong Kong, a 50-year concession that would be renewable for another 50 years.
President Daniel Ortega has asked Congress to fast-track debate on the legislation, which the opposition is against.
Debate on the bills could start as early as Thursday, Sandinista Congresswoman Jenny Martinez, head of the Infrastructure Committee, said.
Construction of the canal, which would be wider than the Panama Canal, would boost Nicaragua’s gross domestic product by up to 10.8 percent in 2014 and by as much as 15 percent in 2015, Public Policy Secretary Paul Oquist said.
Nicaragua’s economy could double, turning it into one of the world’s fastest-growing nations between 2014 and 2018 due to the $40 billion construction project, Oquist said.
The project could boost the formal labor force from the current 623,458 to 1.9 million, the government said.
Nicaragua would grant the Chinese firm a 100-year concession for $100 million payable over 10 years, Oquist said.
The Great Nicaraguan Interoceanic Canal would have a waterway, railway lines, pipelines, ports and airstrips on both the Caribbean and Pacific sides.
Nicaragua is looking at four possible routes for the canal, with all of them passing through Lake Cocibolca.