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New infrastructure for a changing China
Tertiary education and elderly care take priority
OPEC Fund country officer Dr Jaafar Al-Mahdi at the site of the Wenshan Vocational Education Project in the Yunnan Province, southwest China.
In 2019, the OPEC Fund intensified its longstanding cooperation with China by approving a new US$25 million loan to support the Wenshan Vocational Education Project and by signing a US$50 million loan to finance the Hezhou Healthcare Project.
The Wenshan Vocational Education project has a total cost of US$35.8 million and is co-financed with the Chinese government. The project will construct and equip new educational facilities at the Wenshan University in the mountainous Yunnan Province, southwest China – one of the poorest provinces in the country. Market-orientated education will be provided for about 12,000 young job seekers annually, and the facility will also update the knowledge and skills of 6,000 local professional and skilled laborers, per year.
The Hezhou Healthcare Project loan will support the government’s efforts to provide comprehensive elderly health care services in the Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region (GZAR), which borders Vietnam. A new 900-bed health care center will be built in Hezhou City, also providing long-term employment for over 400 staff.
Almost 90 percent of the OPEC Fund’s approvals to China (cumulatively over US$317 million) have supported the country’s educational and health sectors. In particular, resources have been dedicated to two of the Chinese government’s priority areas: infrastructure for tertiary level vocational education and health care centers for the elderly.
Given that China faces a declining labor force and an increasingly aging population, tertiary education and elderly care are important enablers of socio-economic growth. On the education front, China’s economy has begun to shift toward more skill-intensive products and technologies, increasing the demand for high-skilled workers. A recent Chinese State Council report shows ambitious reform proposals including plans to support an additional 15 million people to upgrade their skills, and reframing vocational education as a viable alternative to an academic degree.
China’s focus on elderly care is driven by expectations that come 2050, more than one-third of the country’s population will be aged 60 or over, meaning China will need to care for an estimated 402 million 60-plus year-olds by 2040.
The OPEC Fund’s first loan to China in 2007 was in support of the Yunnan Vocational Educational Project. With a US$16 million loan, this project helped to expand four vocational education colleges across Kunming City, almost tripling the number of students in the area from 13,000 to 33,500.