Going ahead with Chinese projects; not feasible to abandon: Rajitha

Friday, 18 December 2015 00:25 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

AFP: Sri Lanka has agreed to restart Chinese-funded projects worth billions of dollars which were suspended following allegations of corruption, the government’s main spokesman said Thursday.

President Maithripala Sirisena’s government had ordered a review of all big-ticket construction projects signed by his predecessor Mahinda Rajapakse who is under investigation for corruption during his decade in power.

“We tried to renegotiate these contracts with the Chinese, but it was not very successful,” spokesman Rajitha Senaratne, who is also the health minister, told reporters. 

“We have now decided to go ahead with the projects. It is not feasible to abandon them half-way through.”

During his decade in power, Rajapakse relied heavily on China to rebuild the country’s infrastructure after the end of the decades-long separatist conflict in 2009.

The most contentious project is a $1.4 billion port city, which would include a marina and a Formula One track, built on reclaimed land next to the main Colombo harbour.

Senaratne said some of the provisions of that project were being renegotiated to ensure Chinese companies did not get any free-hold land after creating some 233 hectares (575 acres) of new real estate. 

India was understood to be uneasy over the level of Beijing’s influence on the island under the Rajapakse regime.

Seeking to rebuild ties with Delhi, Sirisena made India -- rather than China -- his first foreign trip after winning elections in January. 

China had secured contracts to build highways, railroads and ports during the Rajapakse regime and had also emerged the largest single lender to Sri Lanka which had relied heavily on Beijing for both economic and political support.

Sri Lanka has complained that it was paying too much interest on Chinese loans funding much of the development.

Beijing has been accused of seeking to develop facilities around the Indian Ocean in a “string of pearls” strategy to counter the rise of rival India and secure its own economic interests.