‘Finance’ city development in countries like SL

(COLOMBO, LANKAPUVATH) –As cities become the driver of economic growth and the main ‘beneficiaries of economies of scale’, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe yesterday asked the Mayor’s Dialogue, ‘City Net Congress’ to consider the question of ‘financing’ such development in countries such as Sri Lanka.

Financial resources for growth as well as having development work within the framework of sustainable development were challenges that needed to be looked at, the Prime Minister said, as he stressed that the former, especially, was a concern when “government was committed to low levels of taxation to drive economic growth”.

Addressing the opening session of the 8th City Net Congress hosted by the Colombo Municipal Council, the Prime Minister stressed that the urban plans for Sri Lankan cities would be based on the goal of becoming the maritime, logistics and economic hub of the Indian Ocean; a rapidly growing region expected to add 500-700 million new people by 2050.

“We aim to develop two ports and two airports in the Western and South Eastern coasts.

Then to develop the major cities in the Wet Zone area, from Kandy in the hill country, to the north of Colombo, Colombo and Hambantota.

It would be the first large economically developed area,”explained Prime Minister Wickremesinghe.

He further explained that the government would develop road infrastructure; mainly the Southern Highway and Central Expressway to connect the major cities of Colombo, Kandy and Hambantota.

As Colombo, the industrial hub of the country expands faster, some of its industries are expected to be pushed to the North Western Province. In addition, Hambantota would be developed as a major industrial, logistic and tourism area while Kandy will receive development in tourism and IT.

“Around 35 percent of the population will live in this economic area,” Prime Minister Wickremesinghe said.

The Western Province is set to become the new Megapolis, with a total population of 8 million expected to live within its boundaries but the Prime Minister made it clear that he did not expect to have its administration come under one big city.

“We are not looking at one Municipal Council.

“The Western Provincial Council will deliver services that are devolved to them. What we are looking at is to have common infrastructure services like water supply and infrastructure be provided by one or two organizations- a common platform for infrastructure,”explained the Prime Minister.

Infrastructure and other development, he said would come under a national policy framework worked out in consultation with the Western Provincial Council, but its day to day administration would be handled by the local authorities within the Megapolis.

“Thus, we will be able to maintain the connection between the mayor and voter,” the Prime Minister said as he added that the structure would also be more cost efficient when compared to having each local authority undertake their own development plans.

City Net Congress this year is held being held from November 5-8 and will have the Mayors of 25 cities discuss their views on ‘localising the Sustainable Development Goals to make cities and human settlements inclusive, resilient and sustainable”.

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