By Nishel Fernando
Sri Lanka’s revised 30-year National Physical Plan (2019-2050), which had been delayed due to two months of political turmoil that prevailed in the country last year, is expected to be gazetted by end of this month, Mirror Business learns.
The key element of the draft plan is to develop Colombo-Trincomalee Economic Corridor, which consists one-third of the island’s population, as the main economic corridor by drawing private investments worth of US $ 4 billion from local and foreign investors.
The government plans to invest US $ 400 million for initial infrastructure developments over the 30-year period.
The future development initiatives in the corridor, such as industrial estates, cultural development and tourism zones and urban service centres will be concentrated on six major population centres in the corridor—Colombo Megapolis, Gampaha Metro Region, Negombo Metro Region, Kurunegala Metro Region, Dambulla Metro Region and Trincomalee Metro Region.
The draft National Physical Plan (NPP) was on the making for 18 months by the National Physical Planning Department (NPPD) and it was presented to the National Physical Planning Council (NPPC) chaired by President Maithripala Sirisena for approval last May.
“The final draft was approved by the NPPC chaired by President Sirisena last May. We reached an agreement to provide printed copies of the detailed report to each and every member of the council and to get their written consent for the plan.
Thereafter, most of the members had given their consent and some of these parties had sent their suggestions for amendments and so on, which we have addressed,” Urban Development Authority Chairman and National Physical Planning Department (NPPD) Director General Dr. Jagath Munasinghe told Mirror Business.
The NPPC was scheduled to hold the last meeting to vote for the final version of the NPP on November 5 last year, and a gazette notification to be issued subsequently.
However, as the country entered into political turmoil on October 26 with the removal of the then government headed by Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe and the appointment of former President Mahinda Rajapaksa as Prime Minister, the meeting wasn’t held as scheduled.
Dr. Munasinghe said that NPPD is working on scheduling a meeting with the NPPC within this month, and is expecting the revised NPP to be gazetted by end of this month.
The draft plan also proposes to develop three other economic sub-corridors—Jaffna-Kilinochchi, Batticaloa-Ampara and Galle-Tissamaharama, which would also include Embilipitiya, parallel to the main economic corridor.
Moreover, Anuradhapura and Kandy are to be developed separately as metro regions along with the development of nine moderate-sized cities—Mannar, Mullaitivu, Vavuniya, Polonnaruwa, Puttalam, Mahiyanganaya, Wellawaya, Ratnapura and Nuwara Eliya— on the basis of concentration of essential services.
The NPP is scheduled to be implemented in three time horizons: 2019-2025 (short-term), 2025-2035 (medium-term) and 2035-2050 (long-term).
Speaking of the implementation of the plan and its financing, Dr. Munasinghe said the NPP would be implemented through various government agencies and each agency will be responsible to find its own financing, mainly supported by the Treasury.
However, he noted that some of the projects would be developed as Public-Private Partnerships (PPPs) and through foreign funding.
“Infrastructure has to be developed by the government anyway. However, when the government is not in a position to do so, we will be calling for PPPs.
There will be some foreign donor agencies and multilateral lenders. For example, if a project is identified as a priority project, the government will seek loans on concessionary interest rates from lending agencies such as ADB, WB, IMF, JICA, AIIB,” he added.
Munasinghe emphasised that international developments such as the China-backed ‘Belt and Road’ initiative as well as local developments have been taken into account in preparing the NPP for 2019-2050, as opposed to the incumbent NPP for 2011-2030.
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