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New authority under President considered for Port City

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Eight-member committee appointed to review project mulls new authority to streamline administration
Possibility of authority being directly under President Rajapaksa being considered
Legal work already done to establish Financial City also still under review

By Uditha Jayasinghe

The possibility of vesting the administration of the $ 1.4 billion Port City project under a new authority with direct oversight of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa is among several options being considered by the committee appointed by the Government to review the project.

State Minister of Investment Promotion Keheliya Rambukwella told Daily FT that the committee, which was Cabinet approved in December, is still combing through the proposals that were drawn up by the previous Government.

“There are many things that need to be considered. One option is to establish a new authority that will be directly under the President so that administration can be streamlined. The Government sees this as a very important project and therefore we will certainly give it priority once the Parliamentary Elections are completed,” he said.

Rambukwella also said a decision is yet to be taken on how the Government may take forward the International Financial City, which the previous Government decided would be set up in the State-owned section of the Port City. The committee is evaluating the feasibility and appropriateness of the project, which is formally known as the Colombo International Financial City (CIFC).

The eight-member evaluation committee was appointed by Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa’s Secretary Gamini Senarath. There will be two experts to evaluate the legal implications, and one each to consider the economic aspect, urban development scope, study the engineering proposals, and consider the provincial regulatory and administrative impact of CIFC.

An expert will also be added to the committee to analyse the financial and commercial department, along with a professional to look into the possible sociological impact of the project, according to the Cabinet paper.

The committee is also responsible for figuring out whether the CIFC could function under its own economic and commercial laws, to facilitate operations of global multinational corporations and grow as a business and financial hub.

It was planned to be similar to the financial centre in Dubai, which operates under British law, while the rest of the country operates under the law of the United Arab Emirates (UAE). However, the effort ran into multiple delays under the former Government, as it was necessary to focus on the modalities of how two legal systems would function side-by-side.

Last September the Attorney General issued recommendations that contained the establishment of a Colombo Financial City Commission, a financial services department under the Commission, an advisory committee, arbitration board, Colombo Financial Court, and regulations to govern CIFC. These are now being reviewed by the committee appointed by Prime Minister Rajapaksa’s Secretary.

The Port City is made up of 269 hectares of reclaimed land, which has now been officially vested as part of Sri Lanka. Of the 269 hectares, 116 hectares belong to China Communications Construction Company (CCCC), which is the parent company of China Harbour Engineering Company (CHEC), on a 99-year lease. The remaining land is owned by the Sri Lankan Government, and will be divided up into 62 hectares, to be used to set up a financial city, and 91 hectares to be used as public spaces.

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