Sri Lanka to Reduce China’s Involvement to Cut Corruption
COLOMBO: The new Maithripala Sirisena government in Sri Lanka is to reduce China’s involvement in the island nation’s economy to cut corruption which had attained gargantuan proportions in the Mahinda Rajapaksa era, the Minister of Finance, Ravi Karunanayake has said.
“The economic presence of China needs to be reduced to eliminate corruption. We are not specifically against anybody. If China can give us loans at 0.5 percent we would love to take them, but not at 8 percent. Four to five percent went into the pockets of certain individuals and two or three family members,” Karunanayake told Daily Mirror on Saturday. He was referring to the loot allegedly cornered by the Rajapaksa family.
According to the Dr.Harsha de Silva, Deputy Minister of Policy Planning, Chinese projects cost three times more than Japanese funded ones. The Chinese built railways were four times costlier than the Indian built ones. For example, the Kadawatta-Kerawelapitiya stretch of the Outer Circular Road in Colombo built by the Chinese, cost LKR 7.3 billion per kilometer. But the Japanese funded Kottawa-Kaduwela stretch cost only LKR 2.4 billion per km.
De Silva further said that the US$ 1.3 billion Chinese built Hambantota harbor, and the US$ 300 million Mattala airport, are both unusable. On top of all that, the Rajapaksa government agreed to projects worth US$ 1.2 billion during President Jinping’s visit last year.
The Sirisena government is reviewing the Chinese funded Northern Highway Project and the US$ 1.5 billion Colombo Port City project built on reclaimed land.
Built by the China Communication Construction Company (CCCC), the Port City project envisages the leasing out of a part of the sea bed and land to China. The new government says that the project had not gone through proper environment and strategic impact analyses. The Law of the Sea had been disregarded said one minister.
India had also objected saying that the Port City could be an observation post to snoop on Indian shipping in a situation where 70 percent of Colombo port’s business comes from Indian trans-shipment.
But CCCC said in a press release on January 22, that an environment impact study was done by the University of Moratuwa, approved by the cabinet, and published.
Expressing Beijing’s concern, the state-owned Global Times said: ” The Chinese side will suffer heavy losses if the US $ 1,.5 billion Colombo Port City project started in September, is halted. Given similar cases in Myanmar, this has triggered many concerns domestically.”