The UK company law would apply to the businesses that operate in the proposed business and financial district in the US $ 1.4 billion Chinese-financed Colombo Port City, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe said. Wi c k r e m e s i n g h e mentioned this during a panel discussion he took part at the World Economic Forum held in Davos, Switzerland last week.
“The Port City will become a separate financial and business district, where the UK company laws will apply, and there will be a separate mechanism for resolution of legal disputes,” he said. Responding to a question regarding Chinese investments in the country, Wickremesinghe said the “character” of Chinese investments had changed from Chinese Exim Bankled infrastructure projects to private investments.
“They (Chinese) have agreed to set up a dockyard in Hambantota, followed by a large-scale industrial zone of the Chinese-style and we have decided to go ahead with the Port City.” Wi c k r e m e s i n g h e said, his and President Maithripala Sirisena’s national unity government, was restructuring the economy, which largely depends on workers remittances, apparel and commodity exports. “We want to make Sri Lanka a hub for global value chains, a platform for competitive value addition; we’ll open this (economy) out.”
Sri Lanka has already entered into two free trade agreements (FTA) with India and Pakistan and is negotiating another one with China. The government is also currently in negotiations with India to extend the existing FTA with India to the services sector, by opening up certain earmarked sectors under the proposed Economic and Technical Co-operation Agreement An FTA with Singapore is also in the pipeline. Meanwhile, Wickremesinghe invited the country’s private sector to partner the government to develop a highly skilled labour force. “We cannot be a low-wage economy; young people have aspirations and you have to meet these aspirations…otherwise they will turn on us,” he stressed.