Hambantota Industrial zone was planned by the previous regime- PM

Published : 9:45 am  January 9, 2017 | No comments so far |  |  (486) reads | 



By Yohan Perera
The setting up of an industrial zone in Hambantota was originally planned by the previous regime led by former President Mahinda Rajapaksa, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe said on Saturday.

Speaking during the inauguration of the Southern Industrial Zone, the Prime Minister said the present government was just following the past regime in setting up the zone.
“It was the previous regime that actually got into an agreement to set up the zone in 2014,” he said. He revealed that a committee headed by Law and Order Minister Sagala Ratnayake and former Speaker Chamal Rajapaksa has been appointed to find suitable land for the zone.
“I thank Mr. Rajapaksa for his cooperation with the government in finding land for the zone,” he said.
Also he said if the government decided against going for an agreement with China for a joint venture to swap against the loans given by Exim Bank, it would have been necessary to further increase the VAT.
“Finance Minister Ravi Karunanayake suggested us that VAT would have to be increased or the Port had to be sold, but we finally decided to go for a Joint Venture,” he said.
“ We would have loved to keep a 40 percent or 51 percent stake of the port but that could not be done as we would have had to increase the VAT to generate funds to pay the loan instalment this year,” he added while revealing that more than Rs. 1 billion was to be paid this year.
However, he said Sri Lanka would have a golden share of the Port as it would have a special say in it.
He said China would invest USD 5 billion in Sri Lanka within the next two to three years. Chinese Ambassador Yi Xianliang said Chinese investors would always give priority to Sri Lanka.  He said China -Sri Lanka bilateral relations was a role model for all bilateral relations in the world.
“We have investments in India US and number of other countries but we give priority to Sri Lanka,” he said. He then requested the Chinese investors to preserve environment when running their entities.
Minister Vijth Vijithamuni de Soysa speaking on the occasion said the previous regime did the correct thing by constructing the Port and the Airport but failed to set up an industrial zone to make full use of them.  “This industrial zone is a good move and it is sad that some are spreading false information on the zone,” he said.
Minister Arjuna Ranatunga said the Port would not be sold. He said the government was only devising a plan to pay back the loan. Minister Sajith Premadasa said the Opposition had got disturbed as the government was going to get political mileage if the zone became successful.
Minister Sagala Ratnayake said the government was only trying to make the people of the country economically sound.
Minister Rajitha Senaratne who took a swipe at the previous government said those who protest against the zone should actually protest against the previous government as they were the ones who robbed funds by making false estimates for the Hambantota Port and the airport (MRIA).