Special Economic Zone Bill to be enacted soon | Sunday Observer
Colombo Port City

Special Economic Zone Bill to be enacted soon

24 January, 2021

The Special Economic Zone (SEZ) Bill will be enacted hopefully by the end of next month under which the Colombo Port Commission will be set up to oversee operations, market and position the Port City to be a competitive investment hub in the region, a top official overseeing the operations of the Colombo Port city project told Sunday Observer Business last week.

“The legislation for the SEZ has been approved and it will be in force soon enabling the Commission to carry on marketing and promotional activities that will help attract global investors to the financial city,” Colombo Port City Executive Project Management Director Raja Edirisuriya said.

The legislation is aimed at making the Port City the country’s first service-oriented specialised economic zone.

Early this month the Cabinet approved the drafting of the Colombo Ports Commission Bill. The proposal was presented to the Cabinet of Ministers by President Gotabaya Rajapaksa in keeping with the Government’s policy statement ‘Vistas of prosperity and Splendour’.

The SEZ will offer a wide scope of services to the region as a leading regional hub. Colombo Port City’s strategic location in the South Asian region which accounts for over 1.8 billion (2018) population and a combined GDP of USD 3.4 trillion (2018).

The Commission will comprise the best professionals with highest customer training and skills,” Edirisuriya said, adding that work of the Commission will go on irrespective of the government that is in power.

A primary task of the Commission will be to ensure a one-stop-shop for operations such as obtaining approvals and visas.

“Investors will not want to come if there is no clarity and consistency of policy. The role of the Commission will not change according to the whims and fancies of politicians,” Edirisuriya said, adding that Sri Lanka should be on top of the game as it competes with regional players.

He said Sri Lanka has around 12 export zones. Being an orderly city with residential facilities, the Colombo Port City will stand out from the rest of the cities in the region.

When completed the project will provide over 200,000 job opportunities in addition to a large number of indirect employment opportunities. “The Port City has already attracted USD 1 billion. Over USD 1 billion in FDIs will come in a year.” Sri Lanka was considered a model by Singapore in the 1960s and today it is a leading economy in the region.

Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa having ended the battle against terrorism in 2009 looked at an economy from a long-term perspective to compete with major cities such as New York, London, Tokyo and Shanghai.

Work on the landmark project which was launched in 2014 with an estimated investment of around USD 1.4 billion is expected to be completed in 2041.

The project is jointly developed by the Government and China’s CHEC Port City Colombo (Pvt) Ltd. and funded by CHEC Port City, a unit of China Communications Construction Company (CCCC) Limited.

Land reclamation of 269-hectares was completed in 2019 and currently underground utilities are being placed.

“We want to create an environment that could compete with investment hubs in Dubai, Singapore, and Hong Kong to woo in investors, entrepreneurs, innovators, companies and financial entities with a sound legal, tax and regulatory mechanism,” Edirisuriya said, adding that a thorough study on the impact of the project on the environment has been done through the Environment Impact Assessment report.