- Chinese company initially given Phase I of project in 2016
- Following discussions, Govt. decides local contractors cheaper
- Local banks now expected to fund project
- $ 98 m ADB loan period extended to Dec. for two other projects
By Uditha Jayasinghe
In an unusual turn of events, the Cabinet has decided to give the Ruwanpura Expressway Project (REP) to local contractors, changing previous plans that had earmarked the first phase to be awarded to a Chinese company. The China National Technical Import and Export Corporation (CNTIC) was awarded the first section of the Ruwanpura Expressway to construct 26.3 km from Kahatuduwa to Ingiriya in 2016.
However, it was earlier reported that the venture ran into trouble after the Government attempted to change some of the conditions at the start of this year, which included requiring the Chinese company to obtain the full cost of the project, and giving the Government more leeway on when repayments would start after the project was completed. The cost of the project has not yet been disclosed by the Road Development Authority (RDA). “Although the project was planned with foreign funds, the implementation of the project using local funds has been found to be more beneficial to the country,” Cabinet spokesman Bandula Gunawardana told reporters.
Accordingly, the proposal presented by Highways, Ports and Shipping Minister Johnston Fernando was given Cabinet approval to proceed with the Expressway construction, using the funds of local banks and the services of local construction companies. The REP from Kahatuduwa to Pelmadulla via Ratnapura (73.9 km) has been divided in to three sections for implementation purposes. Section 1 is from Kahatuduwa to Ingiriya (26.3 km), Section 2 from Ingiriya to Ratnapura (26.2 km), and Section 3 from Ratnapura to Pelmadulla (21.4 km).
In July 2016, the former Government considered dividing the expressway into four sections, but it is unclear whether the current Government will retain the earlier segmentation. The RDA website demarcates three phases for the expressway. Cabinet also decided to extend a $ 98 million loan given by the Asian Development Bank to 31 December to complete two projects in the North and North Central Provinces. This proposal was also presented by Highways Minister Johnston Fernando.
Renovation of national highways, provincial roads and selected bridges of the Northern and North Central Provinces were being done under the Northern Highway Connection Project financed by the Asian Development Bank. Funds up to $ 98 million are provided by the Asian Development Bank for the purpose.
Two additional contract packages for the Medavachchiya-Horowpathatna Road were awarded in the month of March in 2019, from the balances of the loan.
However, since the construction work could not be completed before 30 June, which was when the loan expired, permission was sought to extend the deadline till the end of the year.