(COLOMBO, LANKAPUVATH) – Sri Lanka Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa said he appreciates the views of the people and respects the Supreme Court decision on the Colombo Port Commission Bill and hopes to add all the instructions and directives given by the Supreme Court at the second reading of the Bill.
Speaking in Parliament Wednesday, the Premier said he hopes to add more amendments to the Bill listening to the views of the people and the views of the fraternal parties.
Prime Minister Rajapaksa said the massive Port City project commenced in 2014 has been able to add 269 hectares of land to Sri Lanka today. The new land added to the Colombo District by the previous government in August 2019, and now known as the ‘Port City of Colombo’, has given a valuable opportunity to add enormous prospects to the Sri Lankan economy.
He explained that, in order to reap the full benefits of this new project, it is essential that the legal and commercial framework required for the inflow of large investments into the country through the city complex be well established. “We must understand that the government now has a special responsibility to do so,” he said.
“Economists say that if we can set that framework properly, we will be able to attract around US $ 15 billion to our economy over the next five years. At the same time, the new city will be able to create about 200,000 jobs and livelihood opportunities for construction work in the first five years. Economists estimate that in the first five years, there will be about eighty-three thousand new permanent jobs.”
“Today investors have the opportunity to direct their investments to any country in the world. At the same time, there is a lot of competition among the countries of the world today to attract foreign investment to their countries. Therefore, there should be a very high level of incentives, facilities and services to be provided to investors from countries where investment is expected,” the Premier further explained.
“If this is to be the case in the Port City of Colombo, then the city and its services must be managed by a competent commission that performs its functions and responsibilities efficiently. Also, a conducive business environment should be prepared for all investors who come to invest in this new city to be able to engage in their business activities without being hindered.”
“In order to do so, it is imperative to minimize the unjust barriers, waste of time, unforeseen costs, bureaucratic delays, emergency policy changes, etc. that are currently plaguing many investors in our country,” the Prime Minister emphasized.
As a solution to this, the government has proposed to provide all the services and facilities required for foreign investors entering the Port City through a single window and to create a conducive environment for their investment to flow into the country, he said.
Speaking further, The Prime Minister said based on this new Port City, the government is now working to attract at least US$ 15 billion in investment into the country over the next 5 years and establish the legal and business facilitation framework required for this through the new Bill.
“Through it, we will be able to mark a turning point in our country, even in the midst of the Covid epidemic. With this Act, the investor will be able to access all the services from one window, and our hope is to attract the world’s top investors to enter our country.”
“Our government always listens to the people. We appreciate the views of the people, respect the Supreme Court. Therefore, we hope to include all the directions and orders given by the Supreme Court on this Bill at the second reading. At the same time, we hope to add further amendments to the Bill, listening to the views of the people and our fraternal parties.”
The Premier said one of the amendments will be the composition of the proposed commission and he hopes to confirm in the Act itself that the composition of the Commission should be majority Sri Lankans and the Chairman of the Commission should also be a Sri Lankan.
“Also, we hope to bring in the amendment that at least 75 percent of the job opportunities created in this port city should be reserved for Sri Lankans.,” he said.
“At the same time, we believe that in some cases where Sri Lankans do not have the required special skills, the Commission should be given space to relax this condition. Accordingly, we hope to amend this Act to provide employment opportunities to a large number of Sri Lankans, empowering them to relax this condition in such special cases.”
The Prime Minister appreciated the previous government continuing the project despite some setbacks and delays
“It is gratifying that the previous government realized the value of this project from 2015 to 2019. The best example of this is the construction of this Port City, which we started in 2014 during the time of our government, was continued by the previous government despite being stalled due to various reasons.”
The Premier called on the members of the Opposition to support the government and reap the benefits of the Port City for the betterment of the country, without looking at it from narrow political angles.