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Unfounded fears raised over future engine of growth, says Johnston

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Chief Government Whip and Highways Minister Johnston Fernando yesterday said that the Colombo Port City would be a driver of growth and foreign direct investment and allegations of it being a Chinese colony were baseless.

Addressing the media after attending a Sinhala and Tamil New Year festival in Kurunegala, the Minister said the Port City would be another special economic zone.

“When the Katunayake free trade zone was set up under the Greater Colombo Economic Commission in 1978 under the leadership of Upali Wijewardene, the same fears were raised and some expressed concerns. Now, we have many Special Economic Zones (SEZ), including Export Processing Zones (EPZs), Industrial Parks (IPs) and industrial estates. We currently have 12 EPZs and two IPs throughout the country. These areas are considered vital for attracting investment and building industry and the fears raised when the Katunayake EPZ was set up were not raised when other similar zones were set up at Biyagama and Koggala. The Port City too is going to be an SEZ with tax exemptions and more latitude for the investors. Like in the case of the Greater Colombo Economic Commission, which later became the Board of Investment, for the control of the Port City a special commission is proposed. The government has submitted a Bill to Parliament for that purpose. Taking chunks out of that Bill the Opposition and misled parties are now expressing fears,” the Minister said.

Fernando said that an SEZ could not become a colony of another country. “The UNCTAD has identified SEZ as a ‘geographically delimited area within which governments facilitate industrial activity through fiscal and regulatory incentives and infrastructure support’ and such zones are widely used in most developing and many developed economies.”

In similar delimited areas, governments facilitated industrial activity through fiscal and regulatory incentives and infrastructure support. There were about 5,383 SEZs across 147 economies worldwide.  “None of those countries have lost their territorial integrity. Their SEZs have not become a threat to their sovereignty. We already have SEZs and India too has them. The fears being mongered are baseless.”

Asked for his comment on MP Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe’s recent statement that the Port City would become a Chinese colony, Minister Fernando stressed that nowhere in the Bill, did the government present a clause to imply that the Port City would be colonised by China. MP Rajapakshe should have raised his concerns at the SLPP group meeting instead of holding press conferences, the Minister said.

Fernando said land had been reclaimed from the sea near the Galle Face for economic purposes and not for people to fly kites.



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Employees’ Trust Fund Act No. 46 of 1980 to be amended

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The Cabinet of Ministers approved the proposal presented by the Hon. President in his capacity as the Minister of Finance, Economic Stabilization and National Policies to instruct the legal draftsman to prepare a bill to amend the Employees’ Trust Provident Fund Act No. 46 of 1980 enabling to provide health insurance similar to Agrahara health insurance to private sector employees.

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Cabinet nod for MOU between the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka and the Republic of Maldives on Cultural Cooperation

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The Cabinet of Ministers approved the proposal presented by the Minister of Buddha Sasana, Religious and Cultural affairs to sign a cultural cooperation agreement between the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka and the Maldives. (The draft agreement has received the clearance of the Attorney General and the approval of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs).

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Outgoing Bulgarian Ambassador calls on the President

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(pic PMD)

Mrs. Eleonora Dimitrova, Bulgaria’s Ambassador to Sri Lanka, met President Ranil Wickremesinghe at the Presidential Secretariat on Monday (06), before departing for her home country upon completing her tenure in Sri Lanka.

 

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