MR flays CHOGM critics

Wednesday, 31 July 2013 00:52 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

  •  Says hosting of Summit of over 50 Heads of Government of Commonwealth nations and related events is beneficial to country and is an excellent opportunity to showcase peace and development
  • Wants Lankans to think positive and expresses hope int’l delegates will have a mindset change
  • $ 450 per room night to rake in Rs. 7-8 b revenue for hotels during 10 days; State to bear cost of only three delegates per country
  • Advance teams from all 54 Commonwealth countries due in August to appraise preparations for the Summit
  • $ 2 b in FDI eyed via Commonwealth Biz Forum; large delegations from Japan, India, China, UK, Korea expected
  • Public sector pool of vehicles to be tapped
In an apparent reaction to negativism to the upcoming Commonwealth Heads of Government Summit in Colombo, President Mahinda Rajapaksa yesterday urged people to think positively as the gathering of leaders from 54 countries and connected events were highly beneficial to the country. During a meeting with editors prior to breakfast last morning, the President said that thus far, there has been unwarranted negative press over CHOGM, which is scheduled to be held from 10 to 17 November. “Our country was once known as a land suffering from terrorism. However, hosting CHOGM is an excellent opportunity for Sri Lanka to showcase to the world the peace and post-war progress in the country. This will help create the required mindset change among the international community,” the President said. Based on the outcome of the last CHOGM held in Australia, the Government also envisages that the Commonwealth Business Forum will lead to foreign direct investment of $ 2 billion. “Therefore, CHOGM benefits the country and thereby, the people,” he added. Monitoring MP Sajin de Vass Gunawardena said advance teams from all 54 Commonwealth countries will visit Sri Lanka in August to appraise preparations for the Summit. President Rajapaksa, Media Minister Keheliya Rambukwella and Gunawardena, as well as Finance Secretary Dr. P.B. Jayasundera, responded to queries over cost. The President said whilst thousands of delegates are expected, State expenditure will be only on three officials from each member nation – the Head of Government, Foreign Minister and Foreign Secretary. The rest in the official delegations, as well as participants for Commonwealth Business Forum and other events, will be paying for themselves. “Each hotel room night will be $ 450 and during the 10 days of CHOGM, the leisure industry alone will have an income of Rs. 7-8 billion,” revealed Gunawardena. Dr. Jayasundera said that for the Business Forum, large investor delegations are expected from Japan, India, China, Korea and UK. However, officials present at the President-Editors Forum weren’t explicit about the actual total cost but noted that Sri Lanka’s hosting, guided by what is described as the “Blue Book” for any host, will be done at a much lower cost than that incurred by Australia. The Treasury Secretary said that in the run-up to CHOGM, a pool of the public sector’s project vehicles will be tapped, apart from suspending the fresh import of vehicles by State agencies. The Government also hopes to earn extra revenue when special luxury vehicles imported specifically for use by the Heads of Governments are re-sold after use. “We don’t anticipate unnecessary large expenditure with regard to procurement of vehicles for CHOGM,” Dr. Jayasundera said. The Treasury has also directed relevant ministries to use approved Budget allocations when meeting expenses related to CHOGM and to reallocate funds for the same which are otherwise earmarked for overseas promotions and visits.