The newly appointed Minister of Highways and Investment Promotion Kabir Hashim told The Nation that the present Government would not hinder development projects that had already commenced and are ongoing, but would look only into projects that were yet to take off.
He specifically mentioned that the Government would look into the Port City project, adding that they had serious concerns on the process adopted to hand over property within a High Security Zone to another country.
“When it comes to the Port City, we have serious issues as to how a land within the high security zone was given to another country. In addition, the Ports Authority had no mandate to be involved in the project. It had to come through the Finance Ministry,” he said.
He further added that several highway projects too would be looked at during the coming days. “For example, we will have to look at the Northern Highway Project. From what I know, there has been a lot of discrepancies when it comes to the amount spent per kilometer. We have also come to know that the project was not offered through a tender process,” he said.
In addition, Hashim stated that the Ministry would focus on bringing in Foreign Direct Investments (FDIs) for the time being rather than on local investors. “The reason is that we cannot attract large investments that would give the necessary push to our economy,” he added.
Meanwhile, Deputy Minister of Highways and Investment Promotion Eran Wickremaratne pointed out that they would also study the five-hub plan of the previous government and work and make necessary changes based on practicalities and priorities.
“We will look at them and assess what sectors need to be given priority. We have not come with slogans or preconceived plans. We have come with a common sense,” he said.
At a recent pre-election Business Forum participated by President Maithripala Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, the latter said that their government would be about change and not continuity. Replying to a question on whether they could give an assurance that major projects such as the Waterfront project of John Keells and the Port City will not be arbitrarily cancelled without an objective process, Wickremesinghe said, “I can’t guarantee you that we will carry out everything that the Rajapaksa Government has done. We are about change not continuity. But what I told you about the Port City is that we had, as a principle in the manifesto, an environmental assessment and feasibility study. You must also know whether it is feasible. I mean, take the example of the Hambantota Port and the Matala Airport – we have ended up with a cricket stadium. They are not feasible. We want projects that are feasible.”
At the forum, the Prime Minister also hinted that they were considering the possibility of consolidating Mihin Lanka and SriLankan Airlines after appointing suitable persons to manage the two airlines..
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