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Tuesday, September 26, 2023

Sri Lankan majority for Port City Commission – Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa

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The Government will bring in Amendments to the Colombo Port City Economic Commission Bill to ensure that the majority of the Commission will be Sri Lankans including its Chairman, Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa yesterday (19) stated in Parliament.

Prime Minister Rajapaksa also said that the Government hopes to bring in an amendment that at least 75 percent of the job opportunities created in this Port City should be reserved for Sri Lankans.

“At the same time, we believe that the Commission should be given the opportunity to relax this condition in certain cases where Sri Lankans do not have the required special skills. Accordingly, we hope to amend this Bill to provide employment opportunities to a large number of Sri Lankans while empowering the Commission to relax this condition in special cases,” PM Rajapaksa explained.

Prime Minister Rajapaksa made these observations while presenting the Bill to establish the Colombo Port City Economic Commission to Parliament, for its Second Reading.

Prime Minister Rajapaksa said that he appreciates the views of the people and respects the Supreme Court and hopes to add to the Second Reading all the instructions and directives given by the Supreme Court to the Bill. PM Rajapaksa also said that the government hopes to add more amendments to the Bill by listening to the views of the people and the views of the fraternal parties.

Prime Minister Rajapaksa observed, “Based on this new Port City, we are now working to attract at least US$ 15 billion dollars of investment into our country over the next five years. Today we are establishing the necessary legal and business facilitation framework through this new Act.

Through it, we will be able to mark a turning point in our country even in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. With this Act, investors will be able to access all services from a single 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. We also respect the Supreme Court.

Prime Minister Rajapaksa pointed out: “One of the popular opinions is about the composition of this Commission. We hope to confirm in the Act itself that the composition of the Commission should be majority Sri Lankans. At the same time, we hope to establish within the Act the view that the Chairman of the Commission should also be a Sri Lankan.

We know that the reason for the need to introduce such an amendment is the huge losses incurred by Sri Lanka through the ignorant appointments made by the previous government. There is a great fear in the minds of our people today who have been battered by that experience. We acknowledge that these fears are justified.”

Commending the Opposition for the part it played concerning the continuation of the port city project during its regime, Prime Minister Rajapaksa noted, “It is satisfactory that the previous Government realized the value of this project during the period from 2015 to 2019. Thus the present Opposition has the right to be a part of the future benefits this project shall bring to our country. Therefore, I believe that the Opposition will reap the benefits of not looking at the project from a narrow political angle.”

Prime Minister Rajapaksa said: “the construction of this new Colombo Port City was initiated on September 17, 2014 during my tenure as President. The foundation stone for this construction was laid by the President of People’s Republic of China and myself. We all know that this massive project that was launched in this manner has been able to claim 269 hectares of land to Sri Lanka today. The new land was added to it by the previous government in August 2019, and by now it is being known as the Port City of Colombo. In order to reap the full benefits of this new project, it is essential that the legal and commercial framework required for a large investment to flow into the country through the complex is well established.

We must understand that the government now has a special responsibility to do so. Economists say that if we are able to set that framework properly, it will enable our country’s economy to attract around US $ 15 billion in investment over the next five years. At the same time, the construction of the new city will create employment and livelihood opportunities for about 200,000 people in the first five years. Economists estimate that the next five years will see the gradual creation of about 83,000 new permanent jobs.”

The Prime Minister also noted, “Investors today have the opportunity to direct their investments to any country in the world. At the same time, there is a lot of competition in 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. If this is to be the case in the Port City of Colombo, then the city and its services should be managed by a competent Commission which will perform its functions and responsibilities well.

Also, all investors who come to invest in this new city should be able to carry out their business activities without any hindrance or hindrance. In order to do so, it is essential to minimize the unjust barriers, waste of time, unforeseen costs, bureaucratic delays, emergency policy changes, etc. that currently plague many investors in our country. As a solution to this, our Government has proposed to provide all the services and facilities required for foreign investors entering the city through a single window and to create a conducive environment for their investment to flow into the country.”

Thus Prime Minister Rajapaksa noted that the ease of doing business in Sri Lanka has suffered a major setback during the last Government.

“In 2014, Sri Lanka was ranked 85th in the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business International rankings. But by 2019, Sri Lanka had dropped to 99th place. In 2014 we were number one in South Asia but by 2019 we had dropped to number four.

Therefore, our country has been lagging behind in attracting international investment and we should try to rise from that position as soon as possible. In order to do so, we have to acknowledge that we must facilitate investors in the country. As one of the key elements of that effort, we hope to be able to attract businessmen and investors by upgrading our business facilities in this new Port City of our country.

“When we took over the Government again in 2020, we had to face the Covid-19 epidemic which had spread all over the world. We had to close the whole country for 66 days to protect our people from the Covid-19 pandemic.

The entire business sector had to face severe challenges. As a result, our country is in a recession and the economy contracted by 3.6 percent in 2020. As a result the GDP of our country further decreased from US$ 82 billion to US$ 80 billion. However, our Government was able to maintain a satisfactory standard of living,” Prime Minister Rajapaksa stated.

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