Work on the much-awaited Volkswagen assembly plant in Labuyaya, Kuliyapitiya kicked off yesterday with an investment of $ 26.5 million to propel the automobile industry to an innovative era.
Held under the patronage of President Maithripala Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, the facility Western Automobile Assembly once completed by 2019 would have the capacity to assemble vehicles in the 1000 cc to 2000 cc category, including passenger cars, sport utility vehicles (SUV) and multi utility vehicles (MUVs) or commercial vehicles.
Speaking at the event, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe highlighted the importance of attracting foreign direct investments (FDIs) to have an accelerated economic growth, while providing employment opportunities for youth over the next few years.
He assured that the Government would facilitate exports, industrial parks and improve the tourism sector, pointing out that the current export earnings are not adequate.
Delivering an election promise made by the Unity Government of providing employment, Wickremesinghe said they would provide 20,000 jobs by next week.
“We have been able to create over 20,000 jobs from MAS Fabric Park, Volkswagen and the Hambantota industrial park within a week,” he added.
However, the Prime Minister said neither he nor the President is happy with that insisting on the need for an accelerated growth in all sectors of the economy.
Noting that in 2015 when they took over the Government, income to GDP was only 10%, he said now they have a better income to manage the recurrent expenditure assuring that the debt burden would not be passed on to the next generation.
He also said steps will be taken to improve the poultry industry for exports in the future.
BOI Chairman Upul Jayasuriya said the Volkswagen plant would be a major leapfrog for the country in the right direction.
Noting that the land was owned by an individual named Peter who wanted to contribute to the Base Hospital from the income generated from the property, Jayasuriya said a proportion of the revenue generated from the car factory would be remitted to build the Base Hospital in Kuliyapitiya.
The uniqueness of the project would be the inflows of German advanced automobile technology into the country while creating job opportunities for local youth. Initially, these vehicles would be marketed locally for a period of three years and thereafter the vehicles manufactured will be exported to overseas markets.