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‘Private PPPs the way forward for Sri Lanka’

(UDHAYAM, COLOMBO) – Sri Lanka is moving away from taxpayer funded Public Private Partnerships (PPPs), which has been the norm, and switching to privately funded PPPs-and a domestic Infrastructure Corridor Development plan of the government within Sri Lanka has been swiftly promoted at a high profile Asia Pacific investment forum in Dhaka.

“Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe is calling for more private sectors initiated PPPs rather than PPPs from Sri Lankan taxpayer’s money” noted Minister of Industry and Commerce Rishad Bathiudeen on 8 February in Bangladesh.

Minister Bathiudeen was addressing the Asia Pacific Business Forum that opened in Dhaka on 8 February. Commenced in 2004, APBF is an annual platform for regional public-private sector dialogue. Themed “Regional Integration to Achieve Sustainable Development”, this year’s event has been organized in Dhaka by ESCAP with the Government of Bangladesh and the Bangladeshi International Chamber of Commerce (ICC). The event was inaugurated by President of Bangladesh (H.E) Abdul Hamid.

“Under the leadership of the unity government of HE the President Maithripala Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe Sri Lanka is on a development journey towards higher-middle income ranks. Our government has given higher status to investors and the private sector in its development vision. In such a background Public Private Partnership model has become more significant. Sri Lanka’s Public Private Partnership history is not long and has been discussed in the country since 1990s. PPPs received new attention recently after the previous government closely focused on it. Sri Lanka’s previous government showed special interest for PPPs in its Development Policy Framework 2010–2016 resulting in the Colombo South Port Development Project, a Sri Lankan PPP success. Thanks to the project large container ships can berth in Colombo port. With its aim of making private sector a driver of employment and development, the new unity government is even more focused on PPPs. It is planning to create one of the largest infrastructure projects in Sri Lanka’s history called as the Western Region Megapolis. Once completed this Megapolis is expected to be the largest city in the Indian ocean with 8 million people. This is a major infrastructure project in the region. Our government has decided that a public–private partnership strategy will be the main development approach for this Megapolis Development. The government is also interested in using PPPs for other sectors such as transport, energy, water, sanitation and irrigation development. The new Port City project which is part of our larger Megapolis initiative would bring in more FDIs to the country. The Port City’s progress is also based on PPP. Interestingly, our Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe is calling for more private sector initiated PPP rather than a PPP from Sri Lankan taxpayer’s money. In order to better serve investors of manufacturing he is also planning an infrastructure corridor from central Kandy to Hambanthota in South. The other infrastructure corridor is located at the centre of Sri Lanka in Matale near Kandy. The Southern city of Galle is to be developed for tourism. Therefore the Megapolis, Port City infrastructure and economic corridors, as well as tourism are viable investment options for global and Bangladeshi investors who are present here today. I invite you to come and invest in Sri Lanka in these priority sectors. In fact only last week Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe announced that he is expecting a much better FDI flow in 2017. I call you to become a part of this new wave of inward FDIs.”

“PPP partnerships must go deeper and should focus on key areas of inclusive and sustainable development. The private sector can make profound contributions” said United Nations Under-Secretary-General and Executive Secretary of ESCAP, Dr. Shamshad Akhtar.  “Research indicates 71% of businesses are already planning on how to engage with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Through delivering on the SDGs, the private sector stands to potentially benefit $ 12 Trillion of business opportunities globally, which could create almost 380 million jobs by 2030” added Dr Akhtar.

More than 400 high-level professionals from both the public and private sector –including Government Ministers from Bangladesh, Nepal (in addition to Sri Lanka)-were in session at the two day Dhaka forum which closed on 9 February.  The Forum recommended that “specific areas of business related to sustainable development such as the role of business in disaster risk reduction, the need for governments to be assisted in energy infrastructure investment for low-carbon future, and supporting trade and transport facilitation for regional integration.” During his visit to Dhaka, Minister Bathiudeen also held sideline meetings to promote Sri Lanka to Bangladeshi businesses and Chambers.

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