Hambantota port project : Govt should probe missing millions – Arjuna | Sunday Observer

Hambantota port project : Govt should probe missing millions – Arjuna

Ports and Shipping Minister Arjuna Ranatunga said the Government should probe how an additional US $ 650 million had been spent on the Hambantota Port when project proposal was for US$750 million but the loan component for the project was US$1.4 billion.

He said it was China Harbour Corporation which built the Hambantota Port and their project proposal was for US$ 750 million. When we discussed with them, they said the value was US$ 750 million, but our loan is almost US$ 1.4 billion.

“That means US$ 650 million has been overspent and that money had gone somewhere. These are the areas, I have asked the Government to look into”, the Minister noted.

Minister Ranatunga said that if the Chinese private-government party didn’t come, it would have been difficult for the Government to pay the loans taken.

“At present, nearly 60 percent of the profits made by the Colombo Port goes to Hambantota Port. If we can settle the loan of the Hambantota Port, we can develop Colombo Port as another major port. Hambantota is the ideal location to build a port so I don’t blame former Government for implementing this project. It will be in the Silk Route and we all understand that, but the amount of money spent to develop the port is unbelievable,” the Minister told the Sunday Observer yesterday.

The Minister said that former President Mahinda Rajapaksa has recruited youth for this particular Magampura Port Management Company. If the former Government was so concerned about these youths, they should have employed them at the Sri Lanka Ports Authority (SLPA). “Even I prefer to have them in the SLPA. But we can’t do that. Now Hambantota Port runs as a separate entity so we can’t afford to have SLPA people there.”

“When we held joint venture discussions, the first thing I told the Chinese party was that not a single employee must go out. Actually, they were not very keen about employing 500 people. I was keen on adding another 50 people to this project and they agreed to take the entire staff.‘‘We were talking about a higher salary for them and providing all what they are getting. Therefore, the jobs were very secure and only after that, did we go on to the second clause. So this particular clause was the last one but we brought this as the number one clause. We were very keen on protecting their jobs. Unfortunately, all these people were used for political purposes. Today, they are trying to show a different face. It is sad to see the way some of these political leaders behave,” the Minister said.