LIBREVILLE, Aug 15 (Reuters) - Gabon has signed $4.5 billion
worth of deals with companies from India and Singapore in a bid
to revamp infrastructure, improve living standards and diversify
the economy of a nation with dwindling oil reserves.
No details were given on the firms involved but a statement
from the president's office said the projects would include an
upgrade of 1,000 km (620 miles) of roads, developing timber and
palm oil processing and building 5,000 low cost houses.
President Ali Bongo succeeded his father, Omar, as president
of Gabon last year and has vowed to modernise and diversify the
economy as reserves of oil, which still account for nearly half
the government's receipts, start maturing.
Bongo has also looked to broaden the tiny central African
nation's strategic partnerships, which under his father were
centred on a cosy relationship with former colonial power,
The deal was signed on Saturday, the day before Gabon
celebrated 50 years of independence, according to the statement.
The projects are expected to create some 50,000 jobs and
will begin within a few months, it added.
Gabon once produced around 350,000 barrels of oil per day,
but output is down to around 240,000 barrels, and the industry
is under pressure to make new finds in the coming years.
Bongo has vowed to invest billions of dollars to turn Gabon
into a regional hub for industry, services and emerging
environmental business sectors before the oil runs dry.
(Reporting by Phal Gualbert Mezui; writing by David Lewis)