July 30, Colombo: Minister of Ports and Shipping Mahinda Samarasinghe says the concession agreement on Hambanthota Port signed with the China Merchant Port Holding Company on Saturday has alleviated to a greater extent the tremendous burden of the government over the debt payments of the Hambantota Harbor.
Minister Samarasinghe, outlining on the background of the agreement at the signing ceremony today, said the harbor construction to the current level was carried out through obtaining a commercial loan amounting to Rs. 183 billion. He added that the Sri Lanka Port Authority has repaid a debt of 47 million rupees since the year 2011.
He said that 90 percent of the revenue of the SLPA has been set aside to debt payment. The cabinet paper submitted by the former president in the capacity of Port and Shipping minister in 2014 has received approval. As a result then chairman of SLPA entered into an agreement with the Chinese company.
According to that agreement, the Treasury is not entitled to receive any revenue from the investment. However, the Minister said according to the ultimate agreement signed today, the Treasury will directly receive a sum of US$ 1.12 billion. In addition the Chinese Company has agreed to invest another US$ 600 million in the future.
Minister Samarasinghe said the government has the ability to amend the agreement in future as a result of a clause added to the agreement by President Maithripala Sirisena. Any clause of the agreement is liable to change according to the conditions agreed upon at any stge.
Minister Mangala Samaraweera said that in addition to the US$ 1.12 billion further US$ 600 million will be spent to modernize the Hambantota harbor considered as the largest swimming pool of the world.
He said the surrounding districts will be able to reap the fruits of further development for several decades. The agreement enables to proliferate the development to the Southern Province hitherto restricted to Western Province.
He added that 300,000 - 400,000 direct and indirect employment opportunities will be provided. The investors have shown great interest to establish cement, iron industries and refineries using latest technology.
The Minister further said that investors, not only from China, but also from India, Japan and Europe will also be provided opportunity to invest in these ventures.
Speaking at the event, the Executive Vice President of the China Merchant Port Holding Hu Juanhua said the company is committed to take measures in the betterment and social development of the local community.
"We have already established a comprehensive Corporate Social Responsibility program, which includes the development of education, houses and social upliftment of the community at large," Mr. Hu said.
"We look forward to a prosperous future of close relations and friendship with Sri Lanka."