An Echelon Media Company
Saturday May 25th, 2024

Sri Lanka told better public transport can prevent gridlock

Nov 04, 2014 (economynext) – A top transport official from Hong Kong, which topped this year’s global urban mobility ranking, has advised Sri Lanka to improve public transport and traffic management to avoid gridlock from rapidly rising private car use.

Dr Dorothy Chan, Chairperson of the Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport (CILT) International said what was required was a clear, long-term mobility vision, changing travelling habits through land use patterns, an integrated transport system and a pedestrian friendly environment.

"There’s been a lot of talk on promoting Colombo as a logistics hub but this will not happen easily if you cannot maintain a smooth road and transport network to maintain mobility in the city," she told the annual conference of the CILT Sri Lanka branch Tuesday.

Saying she’d already heard of complaints of congestion and more cars on the roads, Chan, former Transport Commissioner of Hong Kong, said: "How to manage city mobility is important if we are to enjoy the benefits of economic growth."

With the volume of traffic exceeding the capacity of roads, she warned that congestion will get worse as the city develops. "Road traffic grows faster than road capacity. Gridlock can happen in Colombo if you’re not careful."

Key challenges were the increase in private vehicles, incomplete public transport networks, insufficient management of road space and regulations not good enough to develop integrated transport networks.

"The more roads you build, the more traffic there’ll be to fill up that space," Chan said. "It’s simply not possible to match the building of roads to meet unrestricted traffic growth."

She cited the example of China where cities are growing fast and so is the people’s purchasing power with car ownership growing to 33 million in 2008 from one million cars in 1994. As a result, Chinese cities experienced serious traffic congestion and bus speeds fell by 60% and bus punctuality fell by 88%.

"There were also important impacts on the environment with increased greenhouse gas emissions, more accidents, more delays, and deterioration in urban mobility which indirectly increases costs of production of goods and services."

Hong Kong’s experience was relevant to Asian cities, she said, describing how the 1,104 square kilometre city state with 7.2 million people avoided gridlock with taxes restricting private car ownership and good traffic planning and management.

Hong Kong’s three guiding principles were continuous improvement in transport infrastructure like roads, rail, buses, airports, ports and bridges, expansion and improvement of public transport, and encouraging efficient use of road space by giving priority to "economic carriers" like buses.

Traffic management using surveillance cameras, automatic vehicle detectors and tolls, remote-controlled traffic lights, and area traffic control systems, helped shorten journey time 20-40%, increased road capacity by 17-25%, reduced accident rates by 15-50% and reduced fuel consumption by about 40%.

"Many of us prefer to use public transport and leave our cars at home," Chan said. "Hong Kong is served by a variety of public transport that’s probably unparalleled in the world. We are spoiled."

Hong Kong’s policy is to develop rail as the backbone of its transport system with buses being the other main carrier and trams, ferries, minibuses and taxis also used.
Rail’s market share of the public transport system has increased to 43% today from 39% in 2013 because of a shift from cars to rail.

Although Hong Kong does not have Bus Rapid Transit, Chan said BRT will help Colombo in building up a good public transport network, noting how such systems elsewhere reduced congestion caused by cars and equals light rail in mass mobility but at much less construction cost.

 

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Leave a Comment

Leave a Comment

Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Melco’s Nuwa hotel to open in Sri Lanka in mid-2025

ECONOMYNEXT – A Nuwa branded hotel run by Melco Resorts and Entertainment linked to their gaming operation in Colombo will open in mid 2025, its Sri Lanka partner John Keells Holdings said.

The group’s integrated resort is being re-branded as a ‘City of Dreams’, a brand of Melco.

The resort will have a 687-room Cinnamon Life hotel and the Nuwa hotel described as “ultra-high end”.

“The 113-key exclusive hotel, situated on the top five floors of the integrated resort, will be managed by Melco under its ultra high-end luxury-standard hotel brand ‘Nuwa’, which has presence in Macau and the Philippines,” JKH told shareholders in the annual report.

“Melco’s ultra high-end luxury-standard hotel and casino, together with its global brand and footprint, will strongly complement the MICE, entertainment, shopping, dining and leisure offerings in the ‘City of Dreams Sri Lanka’ integrated resort, establishing it as a one-of-a-kind destination in South Asia and the region.”

Melco is investing 125 million dollars in fitting out its casino.

“The collaboration with Melco, including access to the technical, marketing, branding and loyalty programmes, expertise and governance structures, will be a boost for not only the integrated resort of the Group but a strong show of confidence in the tourism potential of the country,” JKH said.

The Cinnamon Life hotel has already started marketing.

Related Sri Lanka’s Cinnamon Life begins marketing, accepts bookings

(Colombo/May25/2024)

Continue Reading

Sri Lanka to find investors by ‘competitive system’ after revoking plantations privatizations

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka will revoke the privatization of plantation companies that do not pay government dictated wages, by cancelling land leases and find new investors under a ‘competitive system’, State Minister for Finance Ranjith Siyambalapitiya has said.

Sri Lanka privatized the ownership of 22 plantations companies in the 1990s through long term leases after initially giving only management to private firms.

Management companies that made profits (mostly those with more rubber) were given the firms under a valuation and those that made losses (mostly ones with more tea) were sold on the stock market.

The privatized firms then made annual lease payments and paid taxes when profits were made.

In 2024 the government decreed a wage hike announced a mandated wage after President Ranil Wickremesinghe made the announcement in the presence of several politicians representing plantations workers.

The land leases of privatized plantations, which do not pay the mandated wages would be cancelled, Minister Siyambalapitiya was quoted as saying at a ceremony in Deraniyagala.

The re-expropriated plantations would be given to new investors through “special transparency”

The new ‘privatization’ will be done in a ‘competitive process’ taking into account export orientation, worker welfare, infrastructure, new technology, Minister Siyambalapitiya said.

It is not clear whether paying government-dictated wages was a clause in the privatization agreement.

Then President J R Jayewardene put constitutional guarantee against expropriation as the original nationalization of foreign and domestic owned companies were blamed for Sri Lanka becoming a backward nation after getting independence with indicators ‘only behind Japan’ according to many commentators.

However, in 2011 a series of companies were expropriation without recourse to judicial review, again delivering a blow to the country’s investment framework.

Ironically plantations that were privatized in the 1990s were in the original wave of nationalizations.

Minister Bandula Gunawardana said the cabinet approval had been given to set up a committee to examine wage and cancel the leases of plantations that were unable to pay the dictated wages.

Related

Sri Lanka state interference in plantation wages escalates into land grab threat

From the time the firms were privatized unions and the companies had bargained through collective agreements, striking in some cases as macro-economists printed money and triggered high inflation.

Under President Gotabaya, mandating wages through gazettes began in January 2020, and the wage bargaining process was put aside.

Sri Lanka’s macro-economists advising President Rajapaksa the printed money and triggered a collapse of the rupee from 184 to 370 to the US dollar from 2020 to 2020 in the course of targeting ‘potential output’ which was taught by the International Monetary Fund.

In 2024, the current central bank governor had allowed the exchange rate to appreciate to 300 to the US dollar, amid deflationary policy, recouping some of the lost wages of plantations workers.

The plantations have not given an official increase to account for what macro-economists did to the unit of account of their wages. With salaries under ‘wages boards’ from the 2020 through gazettes, neither employees not workers have engaged in the traditional wage negotiations.

The threat to re-exproriate plantations is coming as the government is trying to privatize several state enterprises, including SriLankan Airlines.

It is not clear now the impending reversal of plantations privatization will affect the prices of bids by investors for upcoming privatizations.

The firms were privatized to stop monthly transfers from the Treasury to pay salaries under state ownership. (Colombo/May25/2024)

Continue Reading

300 out of 1,200 Sri Lanka central bank staff works on EPF: CB Governor

ECONOMYNEXT – About 300 central bank staff out of 1,200 are employed in the Employees Provident Fund and related work, Governor Nandalal Weerasinghe said, with the function due to be transferred to a separate agency after a revamp of its governing law.

“When it comes to the EPF there is an obvious conflict of interest. We are very happy to take that function out,” Governor Weerasinghe told a forum organized by Colombo-based Advocata Institute.

“We have about 300 staff out of 1,200 including contract staff, almost 150 of permanent staff is employed to run this huge operation. I don’t think the central bank should be doing this business,”

The EPF had come under fire in the past over questionable investments in stocks and also bonds.

In addition, the central bank also faced a conflict of interest because it had another agency function to sell bonds for the Treasury at the lowest possible price, not to mention its monetary policy functions.

“There has been a lot of allegations on the management of this fund. This is the biggest fund of the private sector; about 2.6 million active, I think about 10 million accounts.

“When it comes to EPF, obviously there’s another thing. We obviously have, in terms of resources, on the Central Bank, that has a clear conflict because we are responsible for the members.

“We have to give them a, as a custodian of the fund, we have to give them a maximum return for the members.

“For us to get the maximum return, on one hand, we determine the interest rates as multi-policy. On the other hand, we are managing public debt as a, raising funds for the government.

“And on the third hand, this EPF is investing 90 percent in government securities. And also, interest rates we determine, and they want to get the maximum interest. That’s a clear conflict, obviously, there’s no question.”

A separate agency is to be set up, he said.

“It’s up to the government or the members to determine to establish a new institution that has a trust and credibility and confidence of the members that this institution will be able to manage and secure an interest and give them a reasonable return, good return for their lifetime savings,” Governor Weerasinghe said.

“The question is that how whether we have whether we can develop that institution, whether we have the strong institution with accountability and the proper governance for this thing.

“I don’t think it should be given completely to a private sector business to run that. Because one is that here we have no regulatory institution. Pension funds are not a regulated business.

“First one is we need to establish, government should establish a regulatory agency to regulate not only the EPF business fund, there are several other similar funds are not properly regulated.

“Once we have proper regulations like we regulate banks, then we can have a can ensure proper practices are basically adopted by all these institutions.

“Then you can develop an institution that we who can run this and can be taken back by the Labour Department. I’m not sure Labour Department has the capacity to do all these things.”

While some EPF managers had come under scrutiny during the bondscam and for questionable stock investments, in recent years, it had earned better returns under the central bank management than some private funds that underwent debt restructuring according to capital market analysts with knowledge of he matter. (Colombo/May24/2024)

Continue Reading