- Govt. establishes company called ‘Sahasya Investments Limited’ for this purpose
- Styled after recently established Selendiva Investments Limited
- Code of good governance for State-owned enterprise sector also being drafted
The government is planning to list the country’s expressways and related assets via a State-owned business entity in the Colombo Stock Exchange (CSE) similar to Selendiva Investments Limited, which was established to hold key State-owned real estate and properties in Colombo, as part of the government’s broader framework to bring reforms into the State-owned enterprise sector.
To this end, the government has already set up a company called, ‘Sahasya Investments Limited’, to own and operate expressways and other ancillary assets such as quarries.
While the company is still in the process of structuring its operations, the listing of its shares will enhance the transparency through interim financial reports and mandatory disclosures and thereby enhance governance, which has been a bane with State-owned enterprises due to the appointment of political henchmen to their boards, making them fertile grounds for bribery, corruption, nepotism and inefficiency.
As the general public can also become stockholders of the country’s expressway network and the related lands and assets, such assets will naturally come under constant public scrutiny.
The government earlier established Selendiva Investments Limited as a holdings company of State-owned real estate and properties in Colombo, and initially the assets such as Hotel Developers (Lanka) Limited (Hilton Hotel), the Canwill Holdings Limited (Grand Hyatt) and Grand Oriental Hotel were listed under it.
Expanding the holding company’s scope, the Cabinet also decided to vest other key State-owned properties in Colombo and the suburbs also under the company. Selendiva Investments could also be floated by listing it on the stock exchange.
This model draws some similarity between the model being followed in Singapore and Malaysia in managing their state-owned business enterprises, just the way a private sector entity is being run.
In a further attempt to address the challenges being faced when attracting expert skills into State-owned enterprises and retaining them due to the difficulties in paying such individuals market salaries, the Cabinet has appointed a high level committee which can make recommendations on such appointments.
More recent examples however showed that although several private sector executives were drawn into the public sector, their survival only lasted for less than a year.
Meanwhile, a code of good governance for the State-owned enterprise sector is also being drafted to improve their decision-making process to commensurate with increased accountability, create flexibility of operations and to encourage competition.