Written by Tharushan Fernando
10 Apr, 2016 | 8:20 pm
Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe convened a media briefing in Colombo on Sunday, following the conclusion of his state visit to China.
“China – Sri Lanka talks were very successful” said the Prime Minister who said that priority was given to reaching an agreement on economic strategy for the next two decades – and in order to become the hub at the centre of the Indian Ocean, the ‘Megapolis’ will be the key city
He added that the Port City project, which was commenced by China’s President Xi in 2014, was initially a matter of reclaiming land from the sea and constructing buildings, and it did not have an economic background.
“We included it in the megapolis limits which had an economic plan”, he said and further stated that there were many problems here with regard to law, the environment and ownership and all of those issues had to be resolved – and this was submitted to parliament and gradually resolved.
“We will turn it into a business and financial district in line with the megapolis plan to make this the hub of the Indian Ocean”, charged the Premier who pointed out that the difference is the commercial and financial district within the Port City that is being built by China.
Journalists raised more questions regarding the Port City development and the payment made in regard to the project, and Prime Minister explained that no such payment were made.
He explained that it is the media in Sri Lanka that has said that a sum of money will have to be paid and ministers have been questioned regarding payments to be made for the Port City project because of a one year delay in construction. But it was submitted that there is no legal basis and this can be resolved through discussion.
“In truth, what has been given is more valuable than the amount that was asked for, we resolved it through discussion”, said the Prime Minister
When questioned if Sri Lanka has complete ownership of the land, the Prime Minister stated that earlier, it was agreed that the Sri Lankan government would own part of it and the Chinese company would own part of it. But it has been changed and now the agreement is on a on a 99-year lease for a joint cooperation.
The Prime Minister was also questioned on Chinese-funded projects in Hambantota – where he stated that they have not been looked at yet but the Hambantota projects will be coming because they are essential.
“You have the planes coming into your airport, your ships coming in to your harbour and you get the factories going in the industrial area”, said the Prime Minister, who stated that China is also quite interesting going ahead but the emphasis will be shifted from loans to investments
The Prime Minister pointed out that the budget deficit of Sri Lanka is high and the balance of payments are facing problems and if something was to happen in the Middle-East, the country will face a severe crisis. Therefore ,exports will be diversified and that is in manufacturing and services, as well as bringing them in for tourism
But what we are going to do is shift the emphasis from loans to investments. We have a high budget deficit. Our balance of payments is having problems. If something happen in the Middle East, we are going to be in a severe crisis. So, we are going to diversify our exports. And that in manufacturing, services, bringing them in to Sri Lanka for tourism.
The Prime Minister also noted that former presidents’ Chandrika Kumaratunge and Mahinda Rajapaksa have been informed prior to his visit to China.
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