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December 11, 2017

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Sri Lanka passes port to Chinese firm

SRILANKA on Saturday handed over a deep-sea port to a Chi­nese firm, in a deal to boost the cash-strapped island’s finances that has raised concerns at home and abroad over China’s growing influence.

The US$1.12 billion deal first announced in July lets a Chinese state company take over the southern port of Hambantota, which straddles the world’s bus­iest east-west shipping route, on a 99-year lease.

“With the signing of the agree­ment today the Treasury has received US$300 million,” Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe said at a ceremony in Colombo to mark the handover.

“This is the beginning of our debt settlement,” he said.

The loss-making port will now be jointly managed by the state-owned Sri Lanka Port Au­thority and China Merchants Port Holdings.

Sri Lanka owes China US$8 billion that former president Mahinda Rajapaksa’s regime borrowed for its infrastructure development projects, including the port.


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