Visiting Chinese Vice Foreign Minister says halting port city project further will signal alarm for future investors
Says China is sincere to provide win-win solutions and equality for both parties
Phase One of the evaluations concluded and China hopes project will resume soon
Premier Wickremesinghe accepts invitation to visit China
Plans for construction of a kidney hospital in response to request by President Sirisena
Expects 200,000 Chinese nationals to arrive as tourists by end of year
China's visiting Vice Foreign Minister Liu Zhenmin (right) smiles at the media briefing yesterday along with China's Ambassador in Sri Lanka Vi Xianbang – Pic by Upul Abaysekara
China's visiting Vice Foreign Minister Liu Zhenmin and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe
By Shehana Dain
Visiting Chinese Vice-Minister of Foreign Affairs Liu Zhenmin yesterday warned that further suspension of the Port City project could indicate an unhealthy investment environment in Sri Lanka.
Speaking at a press briefing held at the Chinese Embassy, Liu said Sri Lanka had to honour the contract signed by both parties.
“The Port City project is a sign of the investment environment here in Sri Lanka. The Sri Lankan side has already signed the contract. They have to do the needful to fulfil investor interests. Delaying the project further is an adverse sign,” he said.
However, Liu was optimistic about the future of the project, pointing out that negotiations with the Government during his visit had indicated a positive outcome for the revival of the project and that it could be concluded sometime during the next three to five years.
He further stated that the chances of a revival are now greater due to the acceptance of an invitation from the Chinese side by Premier Ranil Wickremesinghe to visit China at an early date convenient to both sides.
“Some projects have re-started while others are on the way. The port city project is Sri Lanka’s largest foreign investment project and is the core pillar of bilateral ties between the two countries. To my knowledge, Phase One of the evaluations has concluded and they will start the project soon. China is sincere about providing win-win solutions and equality for both parties,” he said.
These comments were made following Cabinet approval to appoint a new committee to review the agreement on the Mega Port City project so that the project could resume within the next six months.
Moreover, last month, the Government of Sri Lanka also extended the agreement on the project for a further six months, as the agreement signed between the Government and the China Communications Construction Company Limited (CCCC) in September last year had expired.
Liu also revealed that the Chinese Government has made plans to construct a kidney hospital in response to a request made by President Maithripala Sirisena.
“China is planning to grant assistance to Sri Lanka prioritising medical and health care, education and water conservancy, such as the construction of a kidney hospital. President Sirisena raised this issue to the Chinese Government during his visit to China. Chinese personnel have already conducted feasibility studies and preparations are underway. We hope to corporate with the President regarding the hospital and also including the prevention of kidney diseases,” he said.
Another factor Liu pondered on was the tourism sector. China being Sri Lanka’s largest tourist source market has recorded all-time-high tourist arrival numbers in the current year. Liu stated that he expects tourist arrivals to increase up to 200,000 at the end of the year.
“There were 130,000 Chinese nationals who came to Sri Lanka as tourists last year. This year it has increased significantly. 144,000 tourists have been recorded in the first nine months alone. We expect the numbers to hit 200,000 at the end of the year,” he explained.
“Face to face interaction via tourism will generate greater bilateral trade and corporation between the two countries,” he added.
Pix by Upul Abaysekara