The Chinese-funded Colombo Port City project which had been stalled earlier citing environmental and legal irregularities will be resumed as a Special Financial and Business Centre under the Western Mega-City plan, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe told reporters in Colombo today.
Briefing his recently concluded China visit, the Prime Minister said matters with regard to the environmental impacts, legal circumstances and conveyance of the Port City project have been solved after discussing with the Parliament.
He said an economic value will be added to the Chinese-funded project by appending the project into US$ 30 billion Western Mega-City plan.
“In order to become the economic hub in the Indian Ocean, the Western Mega-City will be our main focus. We have decided to establish the Special Financial and Business Centre in the Port City which was initiated by the Chinese President Xi Jinping in 2014. If we build the Special Financial and Business Centre in Ratmalana or Welikada, it is certain that the Port City project will be futile,” the Prime Minister said.
Speaking on the reports of a US$125 million compensation sought by the China Communications Construction Company (CCCC) which undertook the port city project, due to the stalling of the project, the Prime Minister said no such compensation would be made and they have negotiated with the authorities on the matter.
While stating that the bilateral discussions held with the Chinese Counterpart concluded successfully, the Prime Minister Wickremesinghe said an expected Rs.3000 billion worth competitive economy will be achieved by the Sri Lankan government as an economic pact with India, Free Trade Pacts with China and Singapore, a trade agreement with Japan and the regaining of GSP+ from the European Union (EU) are due to take place before the end of this year.
Adding to that, he said trade pacts with countries like Turkey, Iran, Pakistan, Thailand and an economic pact with South Korea will also be made by the government next year.
“Since 1952, relations between China and Sri Lanka were on governments, departments and institutions level. But, we had discussions with the Chinese businessmen and investors who are keen to expand their business in our country. Hereafter, private investors and businessman can come here and our businessman can go there too,” he stated.
Meanwhile, the Premier said some Chinese companies have made suggestions about the possibility of some infrastructure projects becoming public-private partnerships, in which part of the debt will become equity held by the Chinese companies.
While claiming that the matter is still on discussion level, he said most probably the government will consider making the Hambantota Habour Project which was started by the previous government a public-private partnership.
“We have not yet identified the exact projects which will be sold in stakes to the Chinese companies for equity. We discussed on the principles of it. If they are willing to do that, we will see on next steps. But, we should confirm to the Chinese and Sri Lankan law. When it comes to Hambantota, it is essential. Will see,” he told the reporters.
However, he said the government has already permitted Chinese companies to develop the infrastructure of Hambantota Habour and Mattala Airport.
“Because Sri Lankan companies can’t do this, we handed over the Chinese Companies to uplift the Hambantota Habour and Hambantota Airport. A second phase of the Hambantota Habour will also be constructed. Now they have started bringing ships, airplanes and air services to Hambantota Habour and Hambantota Airport,” the Prime Minister said.
According to him, 1000 acres have been leased for Chinese businessmen for a 99 years lease agreement in Hambantota to establish a new industrial zone in the area.
“We had discussions with President Xi Jinping on how to begin industrialization to our country. In our goal of creating one million jobs, we need to make new industries,” he added.
He also said after President Maithripala Sirisena’s attending to the G7 Summit of the world's largest industrial nations (the UK, Germany, Italy, Canada, USA, France and Japan) in Japan in May, the government will announce the economic ‘master plan’ for next few years.
All the fields will be covered by the economic ‘master plan’ and Sri Lankans will be ready to face any economic challenge coming from the world including the impact which could be made if the UK withdraws itself from the EU. (Piyumi Fonseka)