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Sri Lanka must use its ports for economic growth: President Wickremesinghe
Dr.G.R.Balakrishnan Nov 21 2022 International Ports News

Sri Lanka must use its ports for economic growth: President Wickremesinghe

Sri Lanka must use its ports and strategic location for its economic growth, President Ranil Wickremesinghe said while expressing regret over scrapping of the country’s trilateral deal with India and Japan to develop the Colombo Port’s Eastern Container Terminal.

Former Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa’s office said on February 1 last year that his government has decided to run the Colombo Port’s Eastern Container Terminal (ECT) as a fully-owned operation of the state-run ports authority.

India, Japan and Sri Lanka inked an agreement in 2019 on the development of the Eastern Container Terminal project.

Our strategic location is also a means of enhancing our economic prospects. Firstly, our location says we should be a logistics centre with three good harbours, he said.

Wickremesinghe said it was regrettable that the trilateral agreement with India and Japan to develop the ECT was scrapped.

Former President Gotabaya Rajapaksa had declared that he wanted the India-Japan deal on the ECT to go ahead.

However, after a week of protest, Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa agreed to scrap the deal, prompting India to demand Sri Lanka abide by its commitment to the trilateral deal with it and Japan.

Japan also conveyed its unhappiness with the Sri Lankan government.

Wickremesinghe said the port development would enable Sri Lanka to be the feeder port for Pakistan, India, and Bangladesh.

Running businesses should be handled by the private sector, the government cannot get involved in running businesses, he said.

We are in the middle of an unprecedented financial crisis, which many countries in the world have not faced. We went into this because we followed the wrong policies. We were thinking of policies, not of practical results, he added.

Sri Lanka, a country of 22 million people, plunged into financial and political turmoil earlier this year as it faced a shortage of foreign currencies. It declared bankruptcy in mid-April and has suspended repaying its USD 51 billion foreign debt, of which it must repay USD 28 billion by 2027.

India has provided a lifeline to Sri Lanka by granting assistance worth USD 4 billion to pay for fuel and essential commodities.