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Colombo Port City Economic Commission forges ahead

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The Colombo Port City Economic Commission (CPCEC) has, within the first six months of operation, made considerable progress both in terms of commercialising Southeast Asia’s most ambitious mixed development as well as finalising world-class best practices to fast-track approvals and investor facilitation.

Appointed by President Gotabaya Rajapaksa in June last year, the CPCEC has received 31 out of the 74 land plots technically completed by the Project Company – CHEC Port City Colombo Ltd.

In turn, the commission has released six plots out of the 31 on a 99-year lease basis, generating $ 200 million in sales revenue with a collective investment commitment of $ 600 million.

The seven-member commission headed by Gamini Marapana PC has also identified all 74 primary development plots as Businesses of Strategic Importance, entitled to the maximum benefits permissible under Section 52 of the CPCEC Act.

In terms of actual projects taking off, the commission said construction work had begun on the region’s first Downtown Duty-Free (DF) mall, for operation by two of the world's leading DF operators, positioning the Colombo Port City as a regional shopping destination. Overall, the Port City project is heralding a new era of development in keeping with the vision of ‘Building a World-Class City for South Asia’.

Among key initiatives to fast-track investor facilitation are the incorporation of Special Port City-designated shell companies for smooth investor transfers, establishing designated bank licensing terms, allowing secure, unrestricted foreign currency accounts for investment in the Port City and expediting approval, investor agreement and licensing processes for potential investors and authorised persons.

“The absence of restrictive exchange controls, a preferential tax system with zero tax on personal income, remuneration in foreign currency (FC), and flexible long-term visas for foreign workers and their families coupled with the Sri Lankan lifestyle has generated significantly in the project from international investors,” a spokesman for the Commission told the Daily FT.

He said that the establishment of the Colombo International Financial Centre in February 2022 and associated exchanges would soon stimulate the flow of foreign currency through the Port City, creating employment and adding substantial value to the broader economy over time.

“Our current focus is on identifying and creating compelling value propositions in physical infrastructure development, banking and financial services, knowledge export and other key sectors, targeting reputed anchor investors in each,” a spokesman for the Commission said.

He said the Commission strives for transparent and efficient processes in setting up businesses, condominium ownership, gaming and leisure activities and city management that would be globally competitive and welcomes all input towards achieving its objectives.

In the first six months, the Commission earned income to fully reimburse the Rs. 400 million advance received to set it up.

Among other initiatives completed are the appointment of an accounting firm of international standing to manage the finances of the Commission and the Commission Fund; and the appointment of an audit firm of international standing to perform the Statutory Audit of the Commission and the Commission Fund. The commission also engaged world-class advisory firms to develop suitable policies and procedures for identified thrust sectors, and to design best-in-class regulations in both fiscal and non-fiscal areas.

Separately, the Commission offered the International Commercial Dispute Resolution Centre to international operators under a Memorandum of Understanding with the Ministry of Justice.

A streamlined Customs process for clearing of both capital goods and consumables into the Port City has been designed, whilst the commission has also initiated Single Window Facilitation discussions with relevant Government departments and provided as a pilot project full service (Port Health, Immigration, Customs, and International Ship and Port Facility Security Code) to the arrival of the Port City’s first super-yacht ‘Kalizma’ at the international marina on-site.

A Special Port City e-business and Virtual City concept has been completed and submitted for peer review to the Government of Sri Lanka whilst the Commission has partnered with a leading global technology company to deploy a state-of-the-art digital platform for all-inclusive investor engagements.

The Spokesman said the Commission was collaborating with SLASSCOM to brand IT/KPO as a thrust sector for the Port City by developing policies conducive to attracting world-class technology companies to invest in the Port City and to partner with Sri Lankan companies for maximum knowledge creation, transfer and export centred around a ‘Colombo Tech City’ concept promoting the nation's drive of creating Sri Lanka into a Green IT Hub.

The commission also engaged the Sri Lankan Air Force on flight control management for commercial and emergency (rotorcraft-vertical) flight movement to and from the Port City, whilst separately conducting a feasibility study with the Sri Lankan Navy on defining management protocols for sea access and concerning the internal waterways of the Port City.

As part of strengthening capacity, several international and local candidates have been short-listed for final interviews for the post of Director-General of the Commission.

In the first six months, the commission facilitated numerous international promotional events (Red Bull Outrigged 2021, FIFA Federation Chairman and Delegation visit, LPL Cricket launch, Asia Rugby President and Delegation visit) and licensed several other ongoing temporary activities, thereby enhancing the visibility of the project.

The Port City Economic Commission comprises of Chairman Gamini Marapana PC, Treasury Secretary S.R. Attygalle, Water Supply Ministry Secretary Dr. Priyath Bandu Wickrama, Former Board of Investment Chairman Saliya Wickramasuriya, Orel Corporation Chairman/Managing Director Kushan Kodituwakku, Mercantile Investment and Finance MD Gerard Ondaatjie, and McLarens Group Chairman/MD Rohan de Silva.

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