Sri Lanka willing to go ahead with China projects at lower cost: Finance Minister

COLOMBO (EconomyNext) – Sri Lanka is willing to go ahead with Chinese projects if the cost was lowered and unsolicited proposals would be discouraged in the future, Finance Minister Ravi Karunanayake said.

The Northern Expressway, which was suspended by the new administration, has been estimated at 245 billion rupees, he said.

"We have been informed that it can be done for almost 40 percent less," he said. "The current project is suspended at this price, it will go on with a lower revised rate coming in."

Listed companies which had construction contracts with Chinese projects had taken a beating in the stock market.

He said the administration was quite willing to talk to the Chinese and contacts at the highest levels had already been made, but murky deals would not be allowed to continue.

Deals with China had been made without competitive tenders amid much controversy and allegations of corruption.

"Our job is to ensure a corruption free society. It is not an easy task," Karunanayake said.  "What we are telling the Chinese is nobody is prevented from doing projects here.

"But basically we cannot be told to endorse projects where costs are inflated. So we will unearth all that."

The current administration is also expected to review a sea reclamation project in Colombo by a Chinese company done with their own money.

China financed grandiose projects such as Mattala airport and Hambantota Harbour in the name of ex-President Mahinda Rajapaksa with loans that Sri Lanka’s tax payers have to pay back in the future.

The airport was apparently built on a whim without feasibility studies, critics have said.

We will look at all at project proposals from a cost-benefit analysis," Karunanayake said.

"Unsolicited projects will be something of the past. If there is there will go through a very rigid process".