ECONOMYNEXT- The Sri Lankan government has started to turn around Hambantota port, a white elepant that was draining a state port agency, and nearby Mattala airport will be next, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe said.
Hambantota Harbour was referred to as the ‘world’s largest swimming pool’, he said.
Sri Lanka has leased the port to a CM Ports, a Chinese state firm, though a special purpose vehicle for 99-years, getting 1.1 billion US dollars in cash to offset some of the loans which were thren assumed by the central government. The final instalment wsa released earlier in June.
“Next year onwards we are going to be receiving ships. Already a number of ships have come in.
“We’re the only ones who can turn white elephants into green,” he quipped.
The symbol of the United National Party headed by Wickremesinghe is a green elephant.
He was speaking at a conferenc e in memory of Saman Kelegama, a top economist who passed away last year.
The Prime Minister meanwhile said that the Mattala International Airport, another white elephant, built by China with a loan, was on track to be turned aorund before the end of 2018.
Sri Lanka has publicly said that it wanted an Indian company to manage the airport.
In a fresh blow, Flydubai, on only scheduled carrier which was using the airport, pulled out in June.
The airport, which was opened in 2013, had been built at a cost of 203 million US dollars, 190 million dollars of which came as a loan from the EXIM Bank of China.
Both the port and the airport were a part of plan by the last administratin to boost growth through debt-driven infrastructure projects. (Colombo/June30/2018)