Port City Inaugurated on Reclaimed Land
Ambitious project slated to propel fortunes
No national development project has divided the people of Sri Lanka as much as the Colombo International Finance (CIFC), a.k.a. Port City. For some however, it is the breakthrough that could position Sri Lanka as an albeit small-scale global financial hub akin maybe to Hong Kong in relation to the People’s Republic of China (PRC).
Be this as it may, the Port City was no doubt an ambitious undertaking from the very beginning.
For one, at ground level, the seaside development would require around 269 hectares of land to be reclaimed from the sea, necessitating an initial investment of US$ 1.5 billion. In 2017, the total cost of the work – completed in January 2018 – was slated at 15 billion dollars and the expected date of completion would be sometime in 2041.
And for another, the finished project was expected to attract an initial five billion dollars in terms of foreign direct investments (FDIs).
Of the reclaimed land, 116 hectares would be owned by the China Communications Construction Company (CCCC), which through its subsidiary – China Harbour Engineering Company (CHEC) – signed an MOU with the Sri Lankan government. The latter would own 125 hectares of the CIFC to develop the offshore city.
The Government of Sri Lanka has dedicated 91 hectares for public spaces in a keynote development project that could arguably propel the island’s fortunes as much as it could indubitably change Colombo’s skyline.
As a fresh concept whereby the putative financial centre would be part of China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), the Port City was a brainchild of former president Mahinda Rajapaksa – although it was envisaged as far back as the early 2000s by erstwhile prime minister and now President Ranil Wickremesinghe.
CIFC has been criticised by opposition MPs in parliament by dint of its tax regime, which exempts business from all taxation (personal, corporate, excise, import etc.) for 40 years. But in May 2021, the house approved the Port City Commission Bill that would facilitate such exemptions despite these and other objections citing a perceived lack of due diligence in environmental impact assessment studies.
The Port City was declared open by Sri Lanka’s leading politicians in the company of its captains of commerce and industry – with Chinese President Xi Jinping as the chief guest – in September 2014.
At ground level, the seaside development would require around 269 hectares of land to be reclaimed from the sea, necessitating an initial investment of US$ 1.5 billion