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Advocata Institute welcomes SL’s decision to resume stalled project to develop East Container Terminal

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Open and Competitive Bidding must be the way forward

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka— 

As reported in numerous media sources, a leading Indian consortium is the front runner to develop the stalled East Container Terminal (ECT) in the Colombo Port.

An agreement was reached during the tenure of the former government to develop the ECT in collaboration with the governments of India and Japan. However, the progress of the terminal development was stalled due to various reasons. 

The Advocata Institute welcomes the decision of the administration to resume the stalled project. The significance of the Colombo Port is driven by its large volumes of transhipment to India, which now accounts for about 70% of the total quantity of shipments. It is beneficial that both countries continue to strengthen this relationship through trade and economic partnerships. 

However, we would like to provide input on two main policy areas surrounding this project, in order for policymakers and the public to evaluate the efficacy of the upcoming arrangement. 

Accountability through Competitive Bidding 

The key concern of the Government when entering any kind of public-private partnership such as the container terminal development process should be to ensure that it will produce value for money. The commercial partner selected should be the most capable of producing this outcome. An open tender process would allow for a more efficient allocation of resources by using competitive pricing as a tool to reflect real market sentiments and allowing better utilization of resources.  

 

Tax concessions 

The ECT provides an unique competitive advantage for the operator. The risk in this investment is relatively low, given that the port is already established. The Southport (deepwater port) is well known and has been in existence for 6-7 years. The port is also strategically located with only a 4-hour deviation from the major east-west shipping route. Additionally, its competitor, the CICT terminal is running close to capacity.

Finally, there is a very limited employment multiplier effect that this project can create. The private returns are significantly higher than the cost of capital factoring in-country and project risk.  Taken together and based on the publicly available information, the case for tax holidays on this project is weak.

Further consideration must also be placed on the precarious fiscal situation that the country is presently in and the need to mobilise more tax revenue.

The Advocata Institute calls upon the government to strengthen oversight and accountability through an open tender process. We believe that such a policy direction would be more conducive to reaching the administration’s vision of a more productive and prosperous Sri Lanka. (Advocata Press Release)



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Economic crisis: 100,000 families already starving

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Govt. to provide monthly assistance package – official

By Ifham Nizam 

Plans are underway to assist an average needy family of  four with a monthly package of Rs. 15,000, a senior adviser to President Ranil Wickremesinghe said yesterday, adding that the move was expected to help ameliorate the plight of nearly 65,000 families.

Food Security Committee Chairman Dr. Suren Batagoda told The Island yesterday that at present some 100,000 families across the country were starving.

He said financial assistance would be provided to those families for three months. Within three months, the government would design a package in the form of food stamps, etc.

Dr. Batagoda said the World Food Programme, UNICEF, the World Bank, and state agencies would also team up to strengthen food security, focusing especially on needy pregnant mothers and pre-school children.

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GR govt. ignored Chinese lenders’ request for debt restructuring

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By Rathindra Kuruwita

The Gotabaya Rajapaksa government had ignored suggestions by Chinese lending institutions that Sri Lanka to restructure the debt in 2021, Prof. Samitha Hettige said yesterday.

“The Rajapaksa government started talking of debt restructuring earlier this year. The Opposition had been asking for this before,” he said.  By 2021, before the Gotabaya Rajapaksa administration decided on debt restructuring, the Chinese institutions that had given Sri Lanka loans suggested that a restructuring process should start since Sri Lanka would have trouble repaying the loans, the Strategic Studies scholar said.

However, the request had gone unheeded, and if the government had started discussions then, Sri Lanka would not have been in crisis, Prof. Hettige said.

The Sri Lankan foreign policy, in the last few years, had also been misguided, Prof. Hettige said. A number of Indian and Chinese companies faced unnecessary issues by the behaviour of the government, he said.

Prof. Hettige said that the government must focus on establishing free trade ports and reducing negative lists for investments.

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SJB dissociates itself from SF’s call for protest

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By Chaminda Silva

MP Sarath Fonseka’s call for people to join anti-government protests was not a decision taken by the Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB), party MP J.C Alawathuwala said.

The SJB believed that they had to help President Ranil Wickremesinghe stabilise the country, economically and politically, he said.

MP Alawathuwala said the President must be given some time to solve the problems faced by the people and that the SJB was holding discussions with the government to guide it on a people-friendly path.

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