UPDATE 1-Gabon signs $4.5 bln in deals with India, Singapore
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, France.
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)
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