COLOMBO: Sri Lanka is moving away from taxpayer-funded Public Private Partnerships (PPPs), which has been the norm, and switching to privately funded PPPs, Minister of Industry and Commerce Rishad Bathiudeen said. “Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe is calling for more private sector initiated PPPs rather than PPPs from Sri Lankan taxpayer’s money,” Minister Bathiudeen said addressing the Asia Pacific Business Forum (APBF) that opened in Dhaka on 8 February. The 2017 Asia-Pacific Business Forum (APBF) organized by the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) in collaboration with the Government of Bangladesh and the International Chamber of Commerce was held Dhaka on 8-9 February under the theme “Regional Integration to Achieve Sustainable Development”.
“Under the leadership of the unity government of President Maithripala Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe Sri Lanka is on a development journey towards higher-middle income ranks,” the Minister noted at the forum. He said the government has given higher status to investors and the private sector in its development vision and in such a background Public Private Partnership model has become more significant. The Minister recalled that 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, the Minister noted.
Minister Bathiudeen said the current government with its aim to make the private sector a driver of employment and development is even more focused on PPPs and the government is planning to create one of the largest infrastructure projects in Sri Lanka’s history called as the Western Region Megapolis. He said the government has decided that a public private partnership strategy will be the main development approach for the Megapolis Development, which is a major infrastructure project in the region. Once completed the Western Region Megapolis is expected to be the largest city in the Indian Ocean with 8 million people, the Minister noted.
The government is also interested in using PPPs for other sectors such as transport, energy, water, sanitation, and irrigation development, Minister Bathiudeen told the Forum adding that the new Port City project which is part of the larger Megapolis initiative would bring in more FDIs to the country. “The Port City’s progress is also based on PPP.” According to Minister Bathiudeen, 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 center 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,” the Minister emphasized inviting them 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,” he said.
United Nations Under-Secretary-General and Executive Secretary of ESCAP, Dr. Shamshad Akhtar addressing the Forum said the “PPP partnerships must go deeper and should focus on key areas of inclusive and sustainable development.” The private sector can make profound contributions, he said. “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, and Nepal participated in the two day Dhaka forum. 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.