The world’s largest and emptiest pool in Hambantota could become a world class port bringing prosperity and development to the country, Finance and Mass Media Minister Mangala Samaraweera said in Parliament on Saturday.
“This is with the joint venture PPP partnership with the China Merchant Port Holdings (CMPH) that this government entered into after seven years,” the Minister said.
The Finance Minister made this observations making the concluding speech of the third reading debate of the budget proposal for financial year 2018 which was passed with a majority of 99 votes.
The Budget proposals received 155 votes in favour while 56 against on Saturday evening following the Second Reading and Third Reading debates that lasted until December 9 since the presentation of the proposal on November 9 by Minister Samaraweera.
Minister Samaraweera said the CMPH is a member of the China Merchant Group which also a network of 49 ports across the country would enable Hambantota Port to benefit from the boarder trade and shipping network that CMPH will provide access to making the country an economic hub in the Indian Ocean.
The venture would create job opportunities to the youth and export. He added that the government received USD 292 million as the first tranche of the Hambantota PPP venture.
The Minister said that based on a concept of President Maithripala Sirisena, 2017 had been dedicated to alleviate poverty and to continue the project to achieve the goal of another sum of Rs.2000 million has been allocated through the budget and the this project would be implemented in 1000 Grama Seva Niladari divisions. Later on the project would be implemented in all the GS divisions. Then those villages that could be developed as production villages would be given technical assistance.
He also said that there is a plan to develop and enhance the capacity of reservoirs such as Kolombuwa and several others to minimize the natural disasters.
Queried by Kegalle district JO MP Kanaka Herath on the project charging that the people in his area were puzzled, the Finance Minister said that no body needs to worry as it is done with the consent of the people.
Minister Samaraweera said that investments above USD 200 million would exempt the Ports and Airports Development Levy on the machinery that is imported during the implementation period.
The Minister added that as the due tax on vehicle imports is not paid properly, the tax imposition on CIF rate has been amended and tax would be imposed on engine capacity hereafter. Due to this reason prices of some luxury vehicles would be reduced but a luxury tax would be imposed on them. He added however that the government servants who are entitled for a vehicle permit on their retirement would be given relief if they face a loss due to this move. He also said that the VAT would not be imposed on the Condominium Housing Units worth less than Rs 10 million. He added that move is taken based on the requests of the people.
The Minister also said the Government maintains a close rapport with private media institutions though they are highly critical of the President, the Prime Minister and Government Ministers.
He added that the government provides advertisements even in some newspapers which are even critical of the government too.
Minister Samaraweera also invited the media to join hands in promoting peace and reconciliation in Sri Lanka.
The Minister also said the government would consider opposition members’proposals and answer all their queries in future.