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Coronavirus stalls construction projects in Sri Lanka

ECONOMYNEXT- Construction work on a number of major projects in Sri Lanka have stalled because of the novel coronavirus effect, an industry leader said.

These projects include the Chinese-funded expressways, the Port City and the Shangri-La Apartments project.

Nissanka Wijeratne, Secretary of the Sri Lanka Chamber of Construction Industry told EconomyNext that this is because many of the Chinese construction workers who went home for the New Year have been unable to return.

Restrictions have been placed on them from leaving China by Beijing, and also the barriers have been erected by the Sri Lanka government for travellers from China.

“My guess is, at least half of the total Chinese employees working in Sri Lanka are stuck in China,” Wijeratna said.

He said the construction work is on hold for over three weeks to date.

He said he could not name a figure for the losses the construction companies are suffering because of this development. “But they must be huge,” he said.

He said the companies have a due date to complete certain projects otherwise they will have to pay a penalty.

Wijeratne said the Chamber is in discussion with the Chinese Embassy to find a solution.

Wijeratne adds the companies have received complaints from Chinese workers that they are being discriminated against by Sri Lankans after the coronavirus scare.

“That is why Chinese companies said these employees should be isolated for some time,” Wijeratne said.

Sri Lankan workers on these worksites have also not returned because of the presence of Chinese he said.

Chinese construction workers are paid around 1,000 US dollars per month while an Indian workers get 300-450 US dollars, he said.

Wijeratna said these foreign workers are worth the money. “Average productivity is three times greater than a local employee,” he said. 

Wijeratne said locals get many days off while Chinese employees work 365 days. “Locals want many holidays days off, like two weeks for New Year’s, and weddings, funerals and many other occasions,” he complained. 

“On the other hand, local employees have not returned yet due to the fear of falling ill even there are no Chinese employees”.

 Wijeratne said, the industry expects the situations to be settled in the near future.

“We think all the things will get normal from about two weeks from now.” (Colombo/ Feb 10/ 2020) 

-Edited by Arjuna Ranawana

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