Comments / 118 Views / Monday, 25 March 2019 00:11
Housing and Construction Minister Sajith Premadasa, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, Oil and Gas Minister of Oman Muhammed Bin Hamad Al Rumhi, and International Trade and Development Strategies Minister Malik Samarawickrama laying the foundation stones at the inauguration
$3.8b refinery inaugurated with fanfare in H’tota on RW’s b’day
PM says latest investment shows H’tota is open to all countries
Outlines plans to increase projects, develop investment zone
Mattala to be operational in three months, tourism corridor from Mattala to Katunayake planned
Insists Govt. has delivered on promises, converted H’tota’s “white elephants” into viable projects
Kicking off the $3.8 billion refinery project, billed as the largest Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) to be received by Sri Lanka, in Hambantota yesterday, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe outlined ambitious plans to attract investment from multiple countries, establish new industries, and promote tourism to achieve an economic transformation in the region.
Speaking at the inauguration, Wickremesinghe was upbeat that the Government would be able to attract investment from a variety of countries to create a truly multi-national investment zone in Hambantota. He pointed out that companies from Oman and Tamil Nadu have had long experience in doing business with Sri Lanka, and therefore this development was a natural evolution of a long-standing relationship.
“The investments here will be by Sri Lankans, Indians, Chinese and the investment owned by the Omani Government and many other investors from other parts of the world. It shows that Hambantota will become a truly multi-national investment zone. Everyone has shown their interest, and we have to start investing. Both the traders from Oman and Tamil Nadu have had long experiences in dealing with Sri Lanka. So this is nothing new,” he said.
Wickremesinghe, who turned 70 on Sunday, also thanked his well-wishers and described the investment as the “best gift to the country.” He also recalled that Hambantota needed a boost from investment as it had not seen projects that delivered returns on investment during the previous Government.
“When we ran for election in 2015, Hambantota was an empty land, except for peacocks. There was a cricket stadium without any matches, a conference hall that was not being used, the roads were incomplete, and there wasn’t enough money to pay the bills. While Yala had wild elephants, Hambantota had white elephants.”
“Now Hambantota has a functional port with the help of China Merchants and our Ports Authority. There is also an LNG power plant that will be built here with the help of a Chinese investor. Today, we open an oil refinery here, which is a landmark moment since the opening of the 1967 oil refinery in Sapugaskanda. We have also launched a cement factory.”
The Prime Minister also said that within the next three months the Civil Aviation Authority together with India will make the Mattala airport a viable and functional venture. “That means we won’t be using it to store paddy there anymore. Since 2017, as we promised we have not only given factories to Hambantota we have turned around the white elephants. The core of the transformation in the south is Hambantota.”
Wickremesinghe noted that Katunayake and Biyagama trade zones are excellent examples of well-functioning ventures and the Government is aiming for Hambantota to develop along similar lines.
“Together with the Board of Investment (BoI) and Minister Malik Samarawickrama, we are on the lookout for more investments. We are hoping to transform the entire economy with the Hambantota trade zone. One way is through the development of the fishing business. For the development of tourism in the stretch between Mattala and Katunayake, we have already identified 12,000 acres of land suitable for projects. These could fit five golf courses. With the help of Germany and China we are hoping to give technical skills training to people so that they can meet the skills needed for these employment opportunities.”
The Minister of Ports and Shipping and Southern Development Sagala Rathnayaka has been appointed to carry out these plans, the Prime Minister said, which would also include a new law that will be titled the “Southern Economic Development Corporation law.” In addition the Prime Minister said he has instructed Tourism Development and Wildlife Minister John Amaratunga to target increasing the number of tourists to Hambantota by 300,000.
“I advised both these Ministries that though it is good that luxury hotel chains are established in Sri Lanka, we need to look into how home-stays can be developed for the benefit of our people. The first phase in developing trade zones in Bingiriya is complete. All this has shown we are a working Government,” he added.
Oman Oil Minister excited to be part of Sri Lanka oil refinery project
Reuters: Oman’s Oil Minister said on Sunday he was excited to be part of the Sri Lanka oil refinery project, in a sign that plans for the sultanate’s involvement may be back on track.
Sri Lanka said last week that Oman Oil Co. had made clear it was interested in taking a 30% stake in the new refinery on Sri Lanka’s south coast.
But an Omani official denied the Middle Eastern country had agreed to invest in the project.
Rumhy joined Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe at the laying of the foundation stone for the planned $3.85 billion oil refinery at Hambantota on the south coast, which would potentially be the island’s biggest foreign direct investment.
“This is not a project just for three years. This is a lifelong project,” Rumhy said at the launch ceremony held at the Mirijjawila investment zone in Hambantota. “We will work very hard to deliver this project to the people of Sri Lanka.” However, he did not comment on whether Oman planned to have a direct stake in the refinery.
The refinery will be built near a $1.4 billion port controlled by China Merchants Port Holdings.
The India-based Accord Group is the main investor in the refinery project through a Singapore entity it controls.
The project will be Sri Lanka’s first new refinery in 52 years after Iran built a 50,000 barrel-per-day refinery near the island’s capital city of Colombo to blend Iran light oils.
The new refinery will export all products it refines, officials have said. “We have Chinese investment, we have Indian investments, we have Oman interest for investment, and we have investment interest from many other countries,” Wickremesinghe said at the event. “It shows that Hambantota will become the multinational investment zone.” A senior Sri Lankan minister, who declined to be identified because he is not authorised to talk to the media, told Reuters that Oman had given a commitment to invest in the refinery and there would not be any turning back.
But on Wednesday, Salim al-Aufi, the Undersecretary of Oman’s Oil & Gas Ministry, said “no one on this side” was aware of the investment.
Sri Lanka’s investment board said last week that another Oman entity, Oman Trading International, was willing to supply all of the refinery’s feedstock needs and take on the marketing of the oil products it would produce.
India and China have been vying for political influence in Sri Lanka in recent years, with investment a key part of the battleground.
China is the biggest buyer of Omani oil. In January it imported about 80% of Oman’s crude exports, Oman Government data shows.
An investment zone is planned by China Harbour Engineering Corp alongside the port.