Our goal is to create a Southwestern economic strip: PM

Our goal is to create a Southwestern economic strip: PM

January 7, 2017   02:03 pm

- By Yusuf Ariff

Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe says that the development programme launched today in Hambantota under the leadership of President Maithripala Sirisena will be even bigger than former President J. R. Jayewardene’s Mahaweli Development Programme.

The prime minister was speaking during the opening ceremony for the industrial zone near the port city of Hambantota on Saturday (7).

Police used water cannons to try to break up violent clashes between government supporters and a group of protesters, who had pelted stoned at the site during the event and protested despite a court order issued. 

The government has signed a framework agreement for a 99-year lease of the Hambantota port with a company in which China will have 80-percent ownership. Officials also plan to set up the nearby industrial zone where Chinese companies will be invited to set up factories.

“We will all stand up with the help of the Hambantota Port which was in the brink of going down,” the prime minister said.

He said that the port incurred losses amounting to Rs 983 million while the following year it incurred losses of Rs 449 million. He said that from 2017 the loan payments would have to be added to these losses. 

He said that the government was facing a large crisis as it was unable to pay off the loans and also unable to turn the port into a more profitable venture. 

Wickremesinghe said that by the year 2017, in one side the port would have collapsed due to losses and on the other side the economy will collapse due to the inability to pay loans. 

“Both the mother and child were on the brink of death.”

He said that on September 16, 2014 Chinese president Xi Jinping and then Sri Lankan president Mahinda Rajapaksa signed an agreement phase 2 of the Hambantota Port project to development the Hambantota Port into an international harbour.

“So this task was not started during President Maithripala Sirisena’s time. It started in September 2014. It finished when we came here. It was former President Mahinda Rajapaksa who first did the analysis, reached an understanding.” 

“It was there that they saw an industrial zone was required,” he added. 

He also stated that the security of the port will be handled by the Sri Lanka Navy and that a decision was taken to transfer the navy camp in Galle to Hambantota and put the Coast Guard camp in Galle. 

He said that Sri Lankan laws will be applicable to any and everyone who enters the port; even if they are from the China Merchant Company or if they disembark from a ship. 

He stated that accordingly one agreement was reached with the China Merchant Company and two more agreements are under discussion, led by Minister Dr Sarath Amunugama.

Afterwards Minister Malik Smarawickrama will make a statement in parliament and table all these agreements with complete transparency, the PM said. 

“Our goal is to create an economic strip called the Southwestern strip.” He stated that the country is now heading down a new path towards creating a powerful Sri Lanka and that “nobody can stop that journey.” 

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