By Uditha Jayasinghe
Putting the future of Colombo City in the hands of the private sector, Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa yesterday called on the business community to invest in empowering the capital as part of country’s push to become the “Miracle of Asia”.
|Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa delivering the Sujatha Jayawardene memorial oration organised by the Colombo University Alumni
- Pic by Pradeep Dilrukshana
Delivering the seventh annual Sujata Jayawardene memorial oration titled ‘Development Plan for the City of Colombo,’ the Defence Secretary dwelt extensively on the importance of the private sector investing in converting Colombo to become the “engine room” of the economy.
Combining private sector, academia and civic society into the development process, he remarked that the spearheading would have to be done by the private sector.
“Foreign investment is important for development,” he admitted, but insisted that the private sector should participate in the discourse and consultation process for how change should take place. Rajapaksa asserted that home-grown solutions for development challenges needed to be thought out and noted that to convert Colombo into a regional hub for business and residential purposes, private sector intervention was essential.
“Cities are the driving force of growth everywhere in the world. Colombo should become the symbol for the rest of the country as well as the region to follow. Halfway implemented development plans have hampered the capital for decades and we are finally trying to implement growth by assimilating these plans into a larger project. Slums are in the process of being relocated. We have realised that if they are sent outside the city, then a large labour pool essential for the running of Colombo will be lost, so we are moving them into high rise buildings within city limits,” he said.
Over 70,000 such families have been earmarked to be moved to several locations. Around 320 units have been established in Dematagoda in one high rise complex, while another comprising 3,128 units will be built in Salamulla. The Government’s target is to relocate 30,000 families within the next two years. Each unit costs Rs. 2 million and Rajapaksa urged the business community to contribute to the project.
Another venture that they can participate in is the Private Public Partnerships (PPPs) that are being floated to upgrade the legal dwellings in the city. “There are a large number of houses and businesses that are legal but need a facelift. There are several buildings of historical importance in Fort that are also the headquarters of companies so we are considering developing these areas with the assistance of the private sector. The Urban Development Authority will facilitate these projects.”
Mt. Lavinia, Dehiwala, Kotte and Kolonnawa Municipalities will also be developed alongside Colombo so that the organisational structure will be more lucid. For example, most of the ministries and public offices will be relocated to Kotte and it will eventually become the administrative capital. Therefore, the onus was placed on collective development.