Govt. to reconsider $ 1.4 b port city project on security concerns - Kabir

Saturday, 17 January 2015 03:14 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

Sri Lanka’s new Government will reconsider a $ 1.4 billion Chinese-funded port city project in the capital, newly appointed Highways and Investment Minister Kabir Hashim said yesterday. China Communications Construction Company (CCCC) subsidiary China Harbour Engineering Company is creating the new island off Colombo’s harbour, which was started during former President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s tenure. However, last Thursday elections saw the removal of Rajapaksa and the appointment of new President Maithripala Sirisena. Sirisena also appointed a new 27-member Cabinet headed by Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe who had earlier warned the port city would be scrapped if it failed to meet environmental standards.                               “The port city project has to be completely looked at. We have always spoken about security concerns. You cannot have land given on freehold basis to another country in a high security zone,” Hashim told reporters after assuming duties. Under the agreement the Chinese company will own 108 hectares from the total 233 hectare land area. “There is lack of transparency. The implementing authority is the port authority, which does not have the mandate to do that. It should have gone through the Ministry of Finance,” charged Hashim. “Ports Authority does not have the right to get involved in multi-complex project. This is nothing to do with port and shipping. It is not their mandate.” According to the Cabinet paper approved in November 2013 the Sri Lankan Government will receive the remaining acres, which will be used to attract investors. “When you sell a land or give outright grant in a high security zone, it is a problem. This is a project that changes the country’s shape in the world map. So if you are doing such project there should be transparency and consensus among the people.” Known to be the single largest investment project in Sri Lanka, the port city will also have Sri Lanka’s first 100-story skyscraper under Phase II of its work. This phase would include the construction of hotels, shopping malls, a golf course as well as a F1 track. The Sri Lankan Government expects to attract investment exceeding $ 5 billion once the port city is completed. However, Prime Minister Wickremesinghe during a meeting with the Chinese ambassador to Sri Lanka has assured the project would go ahead once environmental concerns are addressed, according to the Chinese embassy.