by Shiran Illanperuma
COLOMBO, Jan. 2 (Xinhua) -- The Sri Lankan government's aim to kickstart its economy in 2020 will be eased with the fruition of major infrastructure projects, Ajith Nivard Cabraal, senior advisor on economic affairs to Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa, said here Thursday.
In an interview with Xinhua, Cabraal, also a former Sri Lankan central bank governor, said that 2020 will be a year of opportunity for the country as well as domestic and international investors as many long-gestating infrastructure projects will be nearing completion.
"We have a great opportunity because our transport and telecommunications infrastructure are at a very high level. Our workers are well educated and our business laws are up to international standards," Cabraal said.
"I think the stage is set for a wave of growth in Sri Lanka and we are excited for investors to make use of this opportunity," he added.
Cabraal said that formulating the legislative framework for investment in Port City Colombo, whose 269 hectares of land reclaimed from the sea was gazetted as part of the District of Colombo in late 2019, would be a vital policy priority this year.
He added that a cabinet-approved working committee appointed to review and accelerate the joint-venture between China Harbor Engineering Corporation and Sri Lanka Ports Authority has been instructed to deliver results as soon as possible to provide clarity for investors.
"We are very keen for the basic legal structures around land ownership and alienation to be set in place as soon as possible so that investors can start coming in," said Cabraal.
Cabraal also said that Hambantota Port, which reported 60 percent growth in shipment volumes in 2019, is one of the most important and strategic assets for the country and that the government is keen for the port to play a leading role in the economy in 2020.
"The potential in Hambantota has always been extremely high and this needs to be recognized and worked towards so that the port can be a driving force in the future of the Sri Lankan economy."
Operated by Hambantota International Ports Group, a joint venture between China Merchants Port Holdings and Sri Lanka Ports Authority, the port is expected to see further growth this year with the further development of bunkering facilities and a 15,000-acre industrial zone.
Cabraal said that infrastructure investments under the China-proposed Belt and Road Initiative have created great opportunities for developing countries.
He added that there were opportunities for Chinese companies to further invest in hospitality, healthcare, sports, outsourcing to make use of Sri Lanka's location, climate and labor capacity.
"Sri Lanka is open for business. We hope that through partnerships Chinese businesses can come to Sri Lanka so that local businesses will prosper too."
Cabraal said that he was optimistic about Sri Lanka's potential to meet an ambitious growth target of 6 percent in 2020.
"The most important priority for the government in 2020 is to kickstart economic growth. That will help bring the rest of the country's macroeconomic fundamentals to normal levels," said Cabraal.