Mattala Airport: Deal to be finalised soon, says official | Page 2 | Sunday Observer

Mattala Airport: Deal to be finalised soon, says official

In spite of contradictory statements by Indian Aviation Minister Jayanth Sinha, the Sri Lankan authorities are confident that the proposed Sri Lanka-India joint venture on the Mahinda Rajapakse International Airport at Mattala (MRIA) is just one step short of being finalised, Secretary of the Ministry of Transport and Aviation, G.S. Vithanage told the Sunday Observer.

“We started discussions with the Civil Aviation Ministry and the Foreign Ministry of India last year. So far we have conducted three rounds of discussions.

Hopefully, we can kick off the deal by one more round of discussion,” he said.

Referring to media reports, where the Indian Aviation Minister is reported to have made a statement in the Indian Parliament denying that such a proposal was under consideration, the Secretary said that the Minister hadn’t lied about the Mattala joint venture, but it was merely the form of interpretation of what was asked.

“The question raised had been as to whether India is going to ‘buy’ a stake of MRIA, which is obviously not true. We are not selling the property, but leasing the airport to a joint venture company,” the Secretary stressed.

Earlier, Deputy Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation, Ashok Abeysinghe told the Sunday Observer, that the Indian Aviation Authority has primarily agreed to invest US$ 220 million (around Rs. 35 billion) in Sri Lanka’s Mattala Rajapakse International Airport under a joint venture between the two neighbouring nations.

MRIA was opened in 2013 with a massive investment of US$ 190 million (around Rs. 30 billion) through a 15 year loan from the Chinese government. At present, the Airport operates without a single scheduled flight while Rs. 1,700 million is set aside every year up to 2030 to repay the loan.

Losses at MRIA, since it began commercial operations, to date, runs to the tune of Rs. 20 billion, Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation, Nimal Siripala de Silva revealed in Parliament recently.