Government should widen discussion on Port City Bill for fuller benefits: Ranil

Ranil Wickremesinghe

Former Prime Minister and leader of the UNP Ranil Wickremesinghe yesterday urged the Government to ensure broader discussion on the proposed Port City bill to make necessary changes.

He said that a broader consultation on the proposed legislation would be beneficial to ensure the project serves the countries best interest and attracts the right kind of investments. He stressed that the legislation needs to be within the constitution of the country and that transparency and accountability were key to success.

Wickremesinghe opined that the Yahapalanaya Government did not view the Port City as a silver bullet for the economic growth of the country, with expected contribution to the project expected to provide 6% of GDP by 2040. He stressed that the previous Government planned the project to be a financial city that would specialize in providing financial, insurance and shipping services to the South Asian region.

“The envisaged offshore financial city would have taken 10 – 15 years to take off. Our aim was to see it by 2030,” Wickremesinghe told the Daily FT in an interview. He pointed out that a robust revival of the global market need to be taken into consideration in revisiting the proposed legislation due to major disruption brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.

He argued that with many countries having committed trillions of dollars into the COVID-19 containment efforts, the investment market has changed significantly.

Responding to a question, Wickremesinghe pointed out that the draft legislation which was prepared by the Yahapalanaya Government aimed to gazette the Port City as part of the Colombo district. The UNP leader stated that a panel of experts studied a number of overseas special financial centres to tailor international best practices to fit Sri Lankan needs.

“The Police would be in charge of law and order, we planned to have a police building there and an army unit was to be stationed near to the Port City after the current Naval headquarters shifted to the new facility at Akuregoda in Pelawatta,” Wickremesinghe said, when asked about the envisaged law-enforcement and security plan for the port city by the previous Government.

He reiterated that the Government should seek broad consultation with all parties before moving ahead with the proposed legislation.

(Source: Daily FT – By Asiri Fernando)