Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe said yesterday said Sri Lanka was in the process of agreeing to a debt-equity swap with two Chinese companies to manage the loss-making Hambantota Port and the Mattala Airport.
He said the two entities would be converted to exclusive Investment Promotion Zones on the baisi of a Public Private Partnership (PPP) with the Chinese companies paying US$1 billion to Sri Lanka while absorbing their debt portfolio.
The Premier said the proposal would make the rupee stronger and increase the country's foreign reserves,” he added. "City-centered development has been the norm in economic progress in major and emerging economic powers and Sri Lanka’s ambitious Megapolis and Western Development was based on the concept of making the entire Western Province a mega investment, trade and financial centre in South Asia."
In his keynote address at a ceremony to mark the ‘World Cities Day’ under the theme ‘Inclusive Cities – Shared Development’ organized by the Megapolis and Western Development Ministry at the ‘Smart Tower’ at Battaramulla, the Premier said the US economy, the strongest in the world, has been developed round mega cities like New York, Chicago, Los Angeles and Houston.
"London's impact on converting Britain to a tiger economy in Europe was immense. In France, three or four cities have made a similar contribution making France an economic power in the world. The biggest emerging economic entity is China with its open market economic policies in place of communist ideology has taken Beijing, Shanghai and Canton as the midpoint of development with the inclusion of Mundong and Hong Kong to its economic resurgence,” the Premier said. "The Megapolis Development Plan will make Sri Lanka the Naval, Trade, Banking and Financial Center in South Asia between Dubai and Singapore with industrial corridors in Jaffna, Anuradhapura, Polonnaruwa, Trincomalee, Kandy, Galle, Hambantota, playing a major role as centre points of development with specialized industries and tourism playing the major role as specialized revenue earners in the respective regions."
Prime Minister Wickremesinghe recalled that when late President J.R.Jayewardene decided to launch the accelerated Mahaweli Development Project in 1978 under a separate Ministry and the Mahaweli Authority, a group of politicians and officials requested not to remove the project from the Agriculture and Irrigation Ministries as it would badly affect the Irrigation Ministry. But Mr. Jayewardene not only stood by his decision because he wanted a speedier development not in 30 years but in six years and tasked the job to the then Mahaweli Development Minister Gamini Dissanayake.
“The results of that decision are well known. The massive contribution to the national economy from Mahaweli Development Project is a blessing. We launched the Megapolis and Western Development Project with the same objective. The job has been entrusted to Megapolis and Western Development Minister Patali Champika Ranawaka -- one of the most capable, efficient and qualified engineers," he said.
Prime Minister Wickremesinghe launched the official Facebook of the Megapolis and Western Development Ministry on the invitation of Minister Ranawaka.
Primary Industries Minister Daya Gamage and Deputy Megapolis and Western Development Minister Lasantha Alagiyawanna were also present at the occasion. (Sandun A Jayasekera)