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global times: Chinese construction projects abroad brace for delays2020-02-09 15:40:24

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Construction site of China-Sri Lanka Joint Research and Demonstration Center for Water Technology Photo: Courtesy of China Tiesiju Civil Engineering Group

Due to the mass-quarantined populations in China and traffic control measures applied at home and abroad, some overseas construction projects contracted by Chinese building companies have had to be delayed.

However, the companies say the impact from the novel coronavirus outbreak in Wuhan will be limited and will not hurt future cooperation between Chinese enterprises and foreign countries.

A China-Sri Lanka Joint Research and Demonstration Center for Water Technology project which scheduled to be finished by the end of March has had to be delayed for about one month, Wei Hua, manager of the project under the China Tiesiju Civil Engineering Group, told the Global Times on Thursday.

"We should have had 10 Chinese technicians install and test high-end equipment at the center after the Chinese New Year, but due to the virus in China, they cannot travel abroad now," Wei said.

Meanwhile, feedbacks from the Sri Lankan government have been encouraging for Wei, who said there will be no change in their future cooperation.

On Wednesday, Sri Lankan Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa together with about 1,000 people including cabinet ministers and lawmakers prayed for China in the fight against the deadly virus.

Rajapaksa said Sri Lanka firmly believes China will be victorious over the epidemic, and stands firmly with the Chinese people in this regard, the Xinhua News Agency reported.

China Railway 14th Bureau Group Co, which has 10 overseas projects and about 130 staff working abroad, told the Global Times that the coronavirus outbreak has resulted in less face-to-face contact between the company's senior staff and local authorities, as well as a lack of site inspections which has hindered the normal progress of some overseas projects.

The company must consider possible local transport restrictions for imported goods from China, in addition to stricter approvals and procurements of supplies from China with longer time and higher costs, according to a statement the company sent to the Global Times on Thursday.

The company followed local governments' rules and asked Chinese staff and workers who remained in China to postpone their returns to projects in Ecuador, Kazakhstan and Nepal.

The China Communications Construction Co says that though the impact on projects will be apparent in the first quarter, it will have limited influence on the company's annual performance once the epidemic is under control.

With its businesses covering more than 130 countries and regions, the company noted that the first quarter is usually a slack season, thus accounting for little in the year as a whole.

According to China's Ministry of Housing and Urban-Rural Development, more than 7 percent of Chinese citizens work in the construction industry, roughly 97.65 million people.

The country's huge population means the industry is labor intensive with a high level of mobility, and quarantines are generally applied to this group of people in China.

With increasing infrastructure projects in countries along the Belt and Road Initiative, Chinese construction companies are taking care to abide by local rules and strive to safeguard their workers' safety and health.

Shan Jie and Wang Lina contributed to the story