Honduras plans to embark on an ambitious $20 billion project to connect the Pacific and Atlantic oceans through a dry canal, linking its ports by rail.
The stretch of land that separates the Pacific from the Atlantic in Honduras is about 300 kilometers long.
The canal could give strong economic impetus to Honduras and other Central American countries. Honduras’ per capita GDP is little more than $3,000, giving it a world ranking of 102.
“This is a mega project that will bring a lot of economic and commercial benefits,” said Alexander Galeas, an expert in international relations in Honduras.
“Honduras depends a lot on international organizations for cooperation, such as the Central American Integration System and the Central American Economic Integration System.”
Honduras’ President Xiomara Castro Sarmiento pledged that the country would move ahead with the project, which would compete with the Panama Canal.
“The interoceanic train to link the Atlantic Ocean with the Pacific Ocean is a project of national interest, a project to promote economic and social development in Central America,” she said.
A national company would be set up, she said, and “we will invite different nations and private sectors that have expressed their interest in participating in this great project”.
Such international involvement could be pivotal in realizing the idea, experts say.
“If China is encouraged to go ahead (and support) this dry canal, … this strategic location could enhance or strengthen the trade of China with the rest of the world,” Galeas said.
Castro visited China in June, less than three months after Honduras formally established diplomatic relations with China.
During her visit she said she looked forward to working with China in commerce, investment, infrastructure, telecommunications, energy and science and technology.
Antonio Young, executive vice-president of the Trade and Industries China Honduras-Central US citizen Chamber, said Honduras completed a dry corridor road network linking the north and south of the country last year.
“Moving cargo from the south to the Caribbean port is much more expeditious. In five hours a container could get from the south to the north.”
Free trade zones in Honduras, as well as robust infrastructure, such as the dry canal, could create synergies for manufacturing goods to supply the United States, Young said.
Honduras’ Minister of Economic Development Fredis Cerrato said the government expects the private sector to have a 49 percent stake in the project.
The writer is a freelance journalist for China Daily.