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DAILY NEWS ANALYSIS

  • 19 May, 2021

  • 15 Min Read

Sri Lanka passes bill on China backed Colombo Port city

Sri Lanka passes bill on Laws governing China-backed Colombo Port city

  • The Sri Lankan Parliament on Thursday passed a controversial Bill on laws governing the China-backed Colombo Port City, with a majority of 149 legislators — in the 225-member House — voting in its favour.
  • The development comes after the Supreme Court suggested certain amendments, following over a dozen petitions challenging the Bill that political opposition and civil society groups said “directly affected” Sri Lanka’s sovereignty.
  • The government accepted the amendments, pre-empting the requirement for a two-thirds majority or a referendum for passage of certain clauses, as per the apex court’s determination.

About Colombo Port City

  • The $1.4-billion Colombo Port City was launched in 2014 during the previous term of the Rajapaksa government when Chinese President Xi Jinping visited the island nation.
  • The mega infrastructure project is currently being built on land reclaimed alongside Colombo’s iconic seafront, while environmentalists and fisher folk opposed the move.
  • The Ranil Wickremesinghe –Maithripala Siripala administration too went ahead with the project, vowing to develop it as a financial hub.
  • Following their return to power in November 2019, the Rajapaksa administration sought to expedite construction work as well as a legal framework for what promises to be a tax haven for foreign investors.

Colombo Port City: China OBOR in Sri Lanka

  • A Chinese-funded tax-free enclave billed as Sri Lanka’s answer to Dubai and Singapore cleared the final legal hurdle on Tuesday as the Supreme Court in Colombo ruled it could go ahead with only minor tweaks.
  • The largest single foreign investment in Sri Lanka is one of several massive Asian infrastructure projects funded by China as Beijing increases its regional footprint.
  • Sri Lanka’s top court rejected 19 petitions challenging the “Colombo Port City Economic Commission” Bill and approved the $1.4-billion project subject to minor amendments which the government immediately said it accepted.
  • Project officials have said they hope the brand new “Port City”, an area of reclaimed land, will attract billions of dollars for trade, banking and offshore services similar to what is available in Dubai and Singapore, two of its potential competitors.
  • Named the “Colombo Port City” because of its proximity to Colombo’s main harbour, the sea reclamation — carried out with considerable Chinese labour — completed in 2019 has doubled the size of Colombo’s financial district by adding 269 hectares.
  • Under the proposed legislation expected to be passed by Parliament, Port City will be administered by a commission with unprecedented powers to fast-track investment approvals. ll transactions within the Port City will be denominated in foreign currency and all salaries earned by any worker will be tax-exempt.

Source: TH


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