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Sunday, 26 September 2010

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After another nail in the coffin for selling out `loss making ventures':

Hambantota salt giant to nation



The new complex

The easy way out to reduce Government's financial burden is to privatize the loss making entities and this was a practice very common, before the UPFA Government took over.

Prime land and industries which were lying idle were sold to the private sector for a `song' and in turn private sector converted them to profit making ventures proving that privatization is not the right avenue out of this.

One such project that came under the public auction hammer was the Hambantota Saltern which had a rich history having being highlighted by the legendary fiction writer and then Governor of Hambantota area, Sir Leonard Woolf in the 1950s.

One of the main reasons for the Saltern to be constructed in Hambantota was the fact that the area has all the natural resources needed to produce salt. It was also said that even before the saltern was created there was salt lying near the sea in Bundala area.

History says that villagers were used to picking up salt and ancient kings from the up country sent bullock carts to transport salt.

Many say that the Ella-Wellawaya road was the first mode of transport that linked the Hambantota saltern with the up country.

However the historic Hambantota Saltern was to be privatized for a `song' and the then Minister of Labour Mahinda Rajapaksa vehemently opposed this as he new the value of this property and the benefits it would accrue the country.


K. M. Dharamadasa .

He then used some of the ETF funds and also offered 10 percent of the company stakes to the workers thus saving a national and historic landmark for the future generation.

Workers in the Saltern are still baffled as to why a decision was taken to privatize it as it was not running at a large loss.

President Mahinda Rajapaks'a decision and the subsequent intervention to save it has proved to be a very successful move as last year alone the Saltern in Hambantota recorded the highest ever sales revenue of over Rs.1 billion, compared to Rs. 632 million in 2008. This was possible due to optimum production of 63,384 Metric Tons at the fully automated salt processing and iodization factory.The highest ever dividend of 40% has been declared to shareholders.

General Manager Lanka Salt Limited, Mali Bandara said that over the years the salterns in Hambantota were upgraded. "However the biggest development took place during the past three years as there was a three-year plan which will be completed on schedule by the end of this year," she said.

Bundala and Palatupana Salterns are now being developed as autonomous production centres. "The company

that was to be privatized is now gone to the extent of exporting Salt to Japan on a regular basis," she said.

The company also employed 2000 persons for the season.

The three-year plan is to be completed end of the year and President Rajapaksa is expected to officially open it.

She said that construction of a new administrative building, office complex, a laboratory and upgrading of the factory is now almost complete.

She said that they have also created a museum and seek public assistance to feed them with any information on the history of Salt in Sri Lanka.

These information could be mailed to lankasalt@sltnet.lk

Tourism too is to be introduced with the Palatupana Saltern circuit bungalow to be converted into a star class facility with air conditioning and many other amenities.

In addition they are also planning to construct four eco friendly luxury bungalows to attract more visitors while special dedicated website too would be launched.

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