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Colombo Port City Infrastructure development to be completed by mid next year

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Housed in an octagonal building structure with magnificent display walls is the sales centre of the Colombo Port City or the Colombo International Financial City. Erected on the landmass reclaimed from the sea abutting the Colombo seaport, one wall of the centre projects a digital world map with spotlight on Colombo. Highlighted in it on a separate curve are the world cities such as Shanghai, New Delhi, Jakarta, and Kuala Lumpur.

These are basically the destinations to be reached within four flying hours from Colombo, an ideal time to be spent on business travel. Another curve refers to the cities that take more 'flying time’ to reach Colombo from.

" The government has already enacted legislations to gazette the Port City landmass as part of the territory of Colombo district and is in the process of evolving fresh legislations to give title for the lands available for investment "

The sales centre showcases the importance of Colombo to be developed as a commercial hub. Display walls contain details required for international investors to get a glimpse of Colombo’s business potential in transnational trading. As a city which is located astride the key shipping lanes that convey a bulk global trading in fuel and commodities, Colombo offers many a linkage with the rest of the world. The port city is bound to redefine the commercial outlook of Colombo. In fact, it is a new city that would rival Singapore or Dubai one day. The project implementation is now in full swing with the land reclamation work already completed.

Simon Tham, the Assistant General Manager of CHEC Port City which executes the project, detailed out plans for the next phase of development. In an interview with DailyMirror, he shared the following regarding the current status of project implementation. “We completed the land reclamation in January.

Altogether, it amounts to 269 hectares of land. The company has invested in reclamation, dredging and engineering behind it. Right now, we have really embarked on infrastructure for the positive projects. That should be completed by the middle of next year. At this stage, what we need is to get the land titles, and the placegazetted as well as the policies to be in place. Then, we can sell the land for investors, local or international.

Anybody knows it. When we want to buy a house, we ask for the title from the owner concerned. If the owner is ready, we talk about terms. Without the title, we cannot sell. It is a challenge. We are doing roadshows to market the project. That is to let people know that there is a positive project in Colombo, that has been ongoing for the past couple of years,” he said.

The government has already enacted legislation to gazette the Port City landmass as part of the territory of Colombo district. Besides, the government is in the process of evolving fresh legislations to give title for the lands available for investment.

It is a long process that involves different government agencies including the Prime Minister’s Office.

Mr. Tham, who commented on the process said, “We have been working very closely with the Megapolis and Western Development Ministry, the government agencies including the Prime Minister’s Office.

The Attorney General’s Department has to clear the legal aspect. Things are in place to protect the interests of the country.”

According to him, there won’t be much of a difference between the lands applicable to the mainland and the port city. Now, the landmass has been gazetted under the Colombo district. “It will be under the purview of the Urban Development Authority (UDA). As far as land laws are concerned, there will not be too much of a difference. There is no freehold basis. It will be 99-year leasehold. Details are best left to the government to discuss. A committee has already been set up by the government. We discuss positive aspects. We are more concerned about having direct policies that investors would be aware of. Then, they would find it competitive compared to other cities in the region. Only with that, they will consider investing,” he said.

" Port City will have 5.7 million square metres of build up space. Out of 269 hectares of land acquired, 179 will be made available for city development. Port City is the single largest Foreign Direct Investment in Sri Lanka. It is also an investment coming under China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). The project, once completed, will have knock-on effect on the property value of the country "

Asked to analyze the contribution of the project to the Sri Lankan economy, he said, “I will put it this way. Here, we are planting a seed. This seed will take time to grow. For the seed to germinate, it should have the right conditions - water, sunlight, fertile soil etc. For it to grow and bear fruit, it will take some 10-20 years.

Along the way, we want to make sure that the future generation will benefit from the investment we are making now. We are not here to reclaim land and just sell them. We are also committed to see this project blossom and bear fruit.

We have invested in the long run with the government of Sri Lanka, promoting Foreign Direct Investment (FDI),” he said. He asserted that the Fortune 500 and Multi-National Companies would set up their bases here in Port City hopefully, and the project would contribute to creating employment, elevating purchasing power and improving the quality of life here. “I see it as a beneficial project to the country,” he said.

He said, “Port city is an integrated development project. It is a new city. Potential is there. If not, the country would not have invested so much money. We look at Singapore’s case. Sri Lankans went through a war. Since then the country has proven itself. We build on the momentum. We can redefine and link Sri Lanka to the rest of the world.” Port City has been developed with five precincts that will look like any global metropolis. One is central park living – that is to enjoy nature in the heart of the city. The project official said people will get the chance to cycle, run, stroll and picnic there. Secondly, the financial district will be established as a world class commercial district.In the international island proposed within the city, there will be an integrated resort, convention and exhibition centre, international school and healthcare facility. The Marina will comprise 200-Berth Marina, Marina Park and Sunset Bar.

Island living is another component of the Port City. Port City will have 5.7 million square metres of build up space. Out of 269 hectares of land acquired, 179 will be made available for city development. Port City is the single argest Foreign Direct Investment in Sri Lanka. It is also an investment coming under China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). The project, once completed, will have knock-on effect on the property value of the country. Once ompleted, Sri Lanka will also have to compete with the other countries in the region. There are world class cities being built in India. Myanmar and Cambodia are also booming. Also, the countries like Malaysia and Singapore try to have a piece of the pie. But, Colombo has potential to position itself as an international financial hub.

In the attraction of investors, the current global trade war has affected the whole world. Investors are cautious in investing millions of dollars. Likewise, they scale down their operations or relocate their businesses to places with favourable conditions. Port City is poised to rise against all odds, though.

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