COLOMBO (Reuters) - Sri Lanka will appoint a panel of public officials to consider whether work should resume on China’s biggest Sri Lankan real estate project, which was suspended nearly three months ago, a cabinet spokesman said on Thursday.
Work on the $1.4 billion Port City project was halted not long after Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena took office in January. Sirisena said then his government would re-examine deals between his predecessor, Mahinda Rajapaksa, and China, Sri Lanka’s largest foreign investor.
Port City was suspended because it lacked proper permits and approvals, officials said, a move that strained diplomatic relations between Sri Lanka and China.
The Sri Lankan cabinet approved a proposal to appoint high-ranking officials who would consider allowing work on the project to resume, “after correcting lapses and procedures”, cabinet spokesman Rajitha Senaratne told reporters on Thursday.
The project is funded by China Communications Construction Co Ltd (CCCC) and locally handled by CHEC Port City Colombo (Pvt) Ltd.
“We did have some discussions and the government realised it could be workable,” Liang Thow Ming, CHEC Port City Colombo (Pvt) Ltd’s chief sales and marketing officer, told Reuters.
The project involved building apartments, shopping malls, a water sports area, a golf course, hotels and marinas on reclaimed land near the main commercial port of Colombo. When work was suspended, CCCC estimated the shutdown would cause losses of more than $380,000 a day.
The project would give the Chinese company 108 hectares of land as payment, 20 hectares of it outright and the rest on a 99-year lease.
Reporting by Shihar Aneez; Editing by Larry King