The Minister of Highways and Investment Promotion Kabir Hashim met with the Chinese Ambassador Yi Xianliang on Sunday.
A cordial discussion was held which focussed on several highway projects that were being carried out with the financing of China.
There had been some misreporting in the local press about the Outer Circular Highway phase 3 (OCH 3) between Kadawatha and Kerawalapitiya. The Minister clarified that the committee appointed by the Minister to negotiate with contractors had proposed changes in scope that could potentially achieve cost savings in the region of Rs. 25 billion.
Further to these negotiations, the Government has released a part of the mobilisation fees and work on the OCH 3 is expected to commence within the next couple of weeks.
The discussion also covered plans to commence work on the Southern Expressway Extension. The Minister explained that serious consideration had been given towards proceeding with the project as justification of its cost was important.
As there already is a commitment with China and agreements and contracts have been signed with regard to this project, it was mentioned that the Sri Lankan Government wishes to maintain its goodwill.
The Minister explained that although the evaluation of the project on a stand-alone basis may question the feasibility, the benefits that could potentially accrue when looked at as an integrated investment, with investments already made on the Hambantota Port and a proposed Economic Zone, would justify the feasibility to proceed with the Southern Expressway Extension.
The Minister denied allegations that road work in the country had halted; rather he explained that some work had been temporarily paused to revaluate and negotiate in the wider interest of the country. He said that all road work has recommenced and is being carried out in a far more planned and systematic manner that has reduced wastage.
The Chinese Ambassador and his delegation expressed their pleasure and commitment to continue to strengthen the good relations between China and Sri Lanka. They warmly welcomed the decision by the Government to carry on with the OCH 3 and Southern Expressway Extension Projects.