An Industrial Zone with Chinese Investment in Hambantota Launched
Chinese financiers are ready to invest US$ 5 billion in the Hambantota Industrial Zone in the next few years and 55 of them have already committed to invest in the industrial zone, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe told yesterday, at the foundation laying ceremony for the Sri Lanka-China Industrial Zone Development project in Mirijjawila, Hambantota.
Several people were injured during a tense situation in Hambantota when protesters defied a court order and staged a protest near the venue of the launch of the Sri Lanka-China Industrial Zone Development Project yesterday.
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.
At least 27 people sought treatment at the Hambantota hospital after stones were pelted towards the police and the venue of the project, and the police retaliated with water cannons and tear-gas. The police arrested over 50 people in connection to the incident. The protesters, led by some monks, marched towards the venue of the event which was attended by Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe and other Ministers and diplomats.
Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe was speaking during the opening ceremony for the industrial zone near the port city of Hambantota on Saturday (7).
Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe said that the development programme launched in Hambantota under the leadership of President Maithripala Sirisena will be even bigger than former President J. R. Jayewardene’s Mahaweli Development Programme.
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.
The Premier said 1,235 acres have been allocated from this zone in Hambantota for Chinese investments to enable them to set up industrial ventures.
“We are only giving it on a 99-year lease and not selling the port fully to the Chinese company,” the Premier added.
Former Speaker Chamal Rajapaksa, Ministers Sajith Premadasa, Mahinda Amaraweera and Dilip Vedaarachchi were entrusted with the task of identifying land for Chinese investments in Hambantota, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe disclosed.
He said that the Hambantota 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.
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.
“When we met the Prime Minister of China, he queried whether there was enough land for the setting up of an oil refinery and to set up industrial ventures in Hambantota. He queried whether there are at least 15,000 acres.
“We agreed with China Merchant Company to give them a share of 80% keeping 20% for us, to enable us to pay back the loan obtained for the setting up of the Hambantota port,” the Premier said.
The Chinese investments are expected to generate 100,000 jobs in Sri Lanka in the next few years.
Prime Minister said that the Government has to wage an economic war to keep the people of Hambantota and the rest of the country self-reliant and provide jobs to the educated youth in Hambantota.
In the meantime, Chinese Amabassador to Sri Lanka, Yi Xianliang while speaking at the inauguration ceremony said that Sri Lanka is a great country conducive for various investments. As such investors in China are willing to invest in Sri Lanka in various industrial ventures.
Ambassador Yi Xianliang said for the past 60 years China has been assisting the development of Sri Lanka. The Sri Lanka and china friend ship and relationship dates back to several decades based on economic political and cultural activities.
China expects to invest US$ 5 billion in the Hambantota industrial zone in the next 3-5 years, creating 100,000 jobs in the country, Chinese Ambassador to Sri Lanka Yi Xianliang said.
We remember the assistance from Sri Lankan people and the government so that’s why any force negative or some other cannot stop the cooperation between China and Sri Lanka, assistance from China to Sri Lanka, he said.
“Of course no force can stop the friendship between our two countries and the two peoples.”
He stated that Sri Lanka is a most friendly country for China and that is why the island nation is a “priority” for the Chinese investments. Whatever the changes or the government, the ambassador said he believes the Sri Lankan people and the Sri Lankan government will welcome the Chinese investment.
“I do believe this zone will be the most important economic activity for this government, for this country particularly for the Hambantota people.”
“In the next 3-5 years, if everything is okay, I do believe at least 5 billion dollars is to be invested in this zone. Those projects can create at least 100,000 jobs in Sri Lanka,” Mr Xianliang said.
Ministers Malik Samarawickrama, Sagala Rathnayake, Wijith Vijayamuni Zoysa, Arjuna Ranathung Ranjith Madduma Bandara Sajith Premadasa also spoke.
- Asian Tribune –