China may invest US$ 5bn in Hambantota under right conditions: ambassador


Yi Xianliang, Chinese ambassador to Sri Lanka in conversation with G. L. Peiris, Member of Parliament for Colombo District at the BMICH on Wednesday after the Sujatha Jayawardene memorial oration by the ambassador

by Sanath Nanayakkare

China may invest US $ 5 billion in the Hambantoata Port and Industrial Zone projects in the next 2-3 years if conditions and right policies are in place, Yi Xianliang, Chinese ambassador to Sri Lanka, told the media on Wednesday in Colombo, responding to a barrage of questions over the delayed signing of the FDI agreement.

The Chinese ambassador who had just returned from Hambantota said, "I spoke with about 2,000 people living in the area and explained the situation to them. I told them that none of their lands would be acquired by China unless they allow any land to be purchased for the projects, on their own accord. Their permission is of prime importance to us.. The Sri Lankan leaders are willing to go ahead with the deal. But we must listen to and respect the people's voice. So, we are patient to listen and follow the rule of the law of the country. Chinese CEOs, some of them who belong to the Fortune 500, ask me why is the delay and I tell them jokingly that they should go and ask Sri Lankan leaders"

"Hambantota development project is aimed at setting up a basic industrial zone which will help Sri Lanka to
save a great deal of foreign currency spent on its imports. If these plants are set up, Sri Lanka will not have to import sugar, cement electronic equipment etc. as they will be manufactured here".

When asked what is the cost of delaying the projects, the ambassador said that the cost of delay is zero as nothing tangible has started yet.

Asked if any investors might pull out in this backdrop, the ambassador said," Say, there are 100 people in this room and everybody agrees on something but one person. That person must be respected and listened to. Our bilateral friendship has a strong foundation. So we are being patient."

Meanwhile, Finance Minister Ravi Karunanayake said yesterday that being a member of the committee associated with the negotiations, he didn't want to reveal sensitive details too soon.

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