SLPA Chief defends unsolicited proposals

Friday, 28 February 2014 04:10 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

Says necessary for global competitiveness, assures transparency, no Govt. guarantee on loans and pledges to protect land market; Recalls Echelon Square World Trade Centre wasn’t built via tenders. By Uditha Jayasinghe   Defending development projects started with unsolicited proposals, including the controversial Port City, that have recently come under fire from the Opposition, Ports Authority Chairman Dr. Priyath Bandu Wickrama early this week insisted the US$ 1.4 billion deal was competitive. Explaining several points of concern, Dr. Wickrama responding to a question at the Daily FT and Colombo MBA Alumna Association seminar on the five hubs, noted that the Government had rejected a request by the China Communications and Construction Company (CCCC) to prohibit reclaiming of land within a 20km radius of the Port City. Outlining that the Government would build two port cities, in Colombo and Hambantota, the latter of which has already begun construction, the Chairman insisted the country needed such large-scale projects to become internationally competitive. He also pointed out that several projects such as the World Trade Centre were unsolicited proposals that were implemented before the election of President Mahinda Rajapaksa. “Getting approval for these unsolicited proposals is a transparent process. The proposals undergo an exhaustive perusal process after they are submitted to us. They are also inspected by a Cabinet appointed subcommittee and it is only after that they are approved by the Cabinet. So these concerns over lack of transparency are unfounded,” he said. Dr. Wickrama also noted that the showpiece Echelon Square World Trade Centre was built sans calling for tenders. He also dismissed the claim that the Sri Lankan Government would assist CCCC to obtain a US$ 1.4 billion loan from the EXIM Bank of China to invest in the project. Land allocation would also be done at a base price, he added. “What we are doing is selling the sea at Rs.7.89 million per perch. Once the 233 hectares are developed 170 hectares will be saleable land. Another 108 hectares will be leased to the CCCC as per the agreement to help recover their investment. We will not release all land at once and will protect land values. We have no wish to disturb the land market,” he stressed. The Government is targeting a US$ 10 billion maritime sector by 2020. However, Dr. Wickrama stopped short of commenting on UNP MP Dr. Harsha de Silva’s stance the CCCC should not have been given public contracts because it has been banned by the World Bank till 2017 on financial fraud charges in several countries.