Port City Agreement

Uditha Jayasinghe Sixteen months after the suspension of the $1.5 billion Port City project, the government yesterday signed a new tripartite agreement comprising $13 billion in investments, including an international financial centre that officials had pledged to use in Sri Lanka. The new agreement was signed the day before Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe`s trip to China for a visit to carry out major megacity and investment projects in the Chinese cities of Chongqing and Zengcheng. This is Wickremesinghe`s second visit to China this year. The tripartite agreement was signed by the Megapolis and Western Development Ministry, the Urban Development Authority and the China Harbour Engineering Company (CHEC). The Sri Lanka Ports Authority (SLPA), which participated in the previous agreement under the government of former President Mahinda Rajapaksa, was excluded from the new version because the port city would now be part of the new government`s larger Megapolis project. “Major infrastructure projects in Sri Lanka have been completed beforehand, without taking into account larger urban development and development plans. So they became a heavier burden than the blessing,” Said Megapolis and Western Development Minister Champika Ranawaka at the signing ceremony. He stressed that engagement with China, particularly with regard to the port city, was a valuable investment for Sri Lanka, which wants to become an economic powerhouse in the 21st century. CHEC, a subsidiary of the Chinese State-controlled Communications and Construction Corporation (CCCC), is committed to attracting world leaders in the development plans for the port city and working closely with the Sri Lankan government over the next 25 years. “This project will focus on making Colombo the most livable city in South Asia and stimulating growth for the entire country,” said CHEC President Tang Qlaoliang. The new port city has been expanded from 233 hectares to 269 hectares and the agreement converts open-air land to 99 years of leased land.

Public spaces, including amusement parks, have been increased from 63 hectares to 91 hectares owned by the government, as well as an additional 62 hectares used for public investment, including the construction of an international financial centre. CHEC expressed interest in reviewing additional investments in the construction of facilities needed for the financial centre, a statement issued by the Megapolis Department at the signing ceremony. The project will also have 13 hectares of beach, eight times the size of Galle Face. “The previous agreement places the onus on the government to provide public services and infrastructure on the periphery of the reclaimed area, but under the new agreement, the government has the right to ask CHEC to enter into private public partnerships for the provision of infrastructure.