ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka plan to bring a Chinese state firm as an investor to Hambantota Port to will be revamped to bring it in line with the country’s existing law, Ports Minister Arjuna Ranatunga said.
Sri Lanka’s Trade and Investment Ministry spearheaded a plan to incorporate Hambantota Port as a separate company with a 99-year lease and sell 80 percent of it to China’s CM Port Holdings, instead of following the international practice of leasing land for terminals and facilities like dry docks.
Minister Ranatunga and Sri Lanka Ports Authority had raised objections to the plan amid wider public protests, while an opposition legislator had also gone to court over the proposed deal. Opposition legislators had also alleged corruption on the proposed deal, which has been denied by the government.
A ministerial committee including Ranatunga was appointed to re-negotiate with the Chinese firm before inking the final deal.
"We are now happier with the way negotiations are going, though not 100 percent happy," Ranatunga told reporters in Colombo.
Asked whether individual sections of the port could not be leased to China, he said that was direction he wanted to see negotiations move.
Selling 80 percent of a corporatized port would require changes to the law governing Sri Lanka Port Authority.
Ranatunga said he Act was written to protect the interests of the country and Ports Authority and any changes should be carefully considered and it would take a long time.
Ranatunga said he was awaiting the views of the country’s attorney general to the proposed agreement.
The SLPA had paid 7.1 billion rupees in interest and capital repayments to China on loans taken to build Hambantota port, he said.
Sri Lanka had already leased a terminal in Colombo Port to CM Ports, and another private company which were paying annual fees to boost profits of the port. (Colombo/Mar09/2017)