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Brazil announces construction of 800 airports

Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff announced in Paris Wednesday that her country would build at least 800 regional airports.

"Figures in Brazil are big. We plan to build build 800 regional airports or more" for cities of more than 100,000 people, she told a gathering of French business leaders.

"Brazil is a continent-sized country. We need more than railways. Some people in Brazil can travel only by air. We want cities of more than 100,000 inhabitants to have an airport within 60 kilometres," (40 miles) she added.

"It is also a necessity for the country's growth."

Hit by the global economic slowdown, Brazil is projected to grow only a mere one percent this year, according to market analysts. This would be the worst performance within the BRICS bloc of emerging powers, which also groups China, India, Russia and South Africa.

Last year, Brazil's GDP expanded by just 2.7 percent, down from a sizzling 7.5 percent in 2010.

Brazil, a country of 194 million people with a territory 17 times bigger than Spain, seeks to upgrade its creaking infrastructure and has privatised three airports,including Sao Paulo's Guarulhos, through concessions ahead of the 2014 World Cup.

The concessions valued at a total of $14 billion will upgrade congested terminals at the three airports to handle the tens of thousands of tourists expected for the World Cup.

They were won by three different consortiums made up of domestic and foreign operators.

The country, the world's leading producer of sugar, beef meat and iron ore, also needs additional and modern airports to transport commodities.

"Most Brazilian airports are congested. If things don't improve, they will have problems," the president of the Latin American and Caribbean Air Transport Association, Roberto Kriete, warned recently.

Air transport in Brazil grew more than 120 percent in the past decade as more than 30 million people were lifted out of poverty and began to travel by air for the first time.

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