THE opening of Sandu Ao military port in Fujian's Ningde district has been hindered by lack of funds for the construction of basic infrastructure. Mayor Chen Mingyu admitted foreign investors were reluctant to do business in Sandu Ao because of its poor infrastructure. It is a military port and not open to foreigners, but in September 1993, the State Council announced the establishment of a 22-square-kilometre experimental zone. Foreign investors were offered tax incentives similar to those in Special Economic Zones to set up factories and plants. It was hoped Sandu Ao could provide the much-needed impetus for an economic take-off in the Ningde area. Ningde, with two cities and seven counties, is perhaps the poorest area in Fujian. Monthly per capita income there was only 130 yuan (HK$119) - much lower than the average in the city areas in Fujian. While the local authorities have been lobbying for funding for a series of infrastructure projects including a US$5 billion (HK$38.6 billion) oil refinery and several container wharfs, most have been yet to be approved. But the mayor remained optimistic the situation could improve this year. 'Of course, [the trial zone port] cannot compete with those ports in Shanghai and Guangdong province right now. 'But once the infrastructures are built and we are linked to other parts of the country as well as overseas, our deep-sea port will be able to develop into a cargo transfer terminal,' Mr Chen said. The local government is already building customs facilities for the container ports. At the moment, Sandu Ao has only a floating wharf. Mr Chen said the provincial government had agreed to invest more than 100 million yuan to jointly build a container wharf with the local authorities in Ningde within this year.