The much hyped Colombo Port City has been renamed as the Colombo International Financial City. A tripartite agreement was signed today by the Megapolis and Western Development Ministry, together with the Urban Development Authority (UDA) and the CHEC Port City Colombo (Pvt.) Ltd.
The agreement allows CHEC to re-commence construction work of the project which was originally mooted by former President Mahinda Rajapaksa and later suspend by under the President Maithripala Maithripala Sirisena – Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe led government citing environment concerns and procedural irregularities. During the run up to the Presidential Election in 2015, Wickremesinghe vowed to scrap the project if they came to power.
The new agreement which replaced the old agreement signed during Rajapaksa’s term, also allocated a further two hectares for the project in place of the US $ 125 million compensation claim made by CHEC as loss due to the government’s decision to suspend the project last year.
The Yahapalanaya government has coined a new name for the project although the concept remains the same. The project will be utilized to develop Colombo in to a financial hub and attract foreign investments from South Asia, Middle East and Europe.
Meanwhile, Wickremesinghe will leave for China tomorrow on an official tour. This is his second visit since April this year.
The US $1.4 billion China-funded project was originally to be built on 233 hectares (576 acres) of reclaimed land — an area slightly larger than Monaco — and was to attract local and international investments for shopping malls, hotels, apartments, an exhibition center, educational institutions, healthcare facilities, theme parks, and restaurants, among others. When the project was suspended in March 2015, construction work was already underway, after it was inaugurated in September 2014 in the presence of Chinese President Xi Jinping and Rajapaksa.
The original estimate was that the project would generate 83,000 local jobs and attract international investments to the tune of US $ 13 billion when the project is fully completed.
Just weeks after Wickremesinghe gave the green light for the project, the People’s Movement Against the Port City criticized Wickremesinghe for his change in policy against the controversial port city project. “It is very unfortunate that Mr. Wickremesinghe, now as the Prime Minister of the Government of ‘Good Governance’, is not only acting against his own words but also against the promise that he made to millions of people who voted him to power trusting his pledge,” the movement said in a statement.
Although the Yahapalanaya Government under Sirisena and Wickremesinghe adopted an indifferent attitude towards China after coming to power, their failure to bring in considerable foreign investments to the country eventually resulted in them limping back to China and following in Rajapaksa’s footsteps.
During several high level meets, China had also warned the Sri Lankan government against antagonizing them and against blocking Chinese funded projects in the country.