Already 50 Chinese financiers have come forward to invest in the Sri Lanka-China Logistics and Industrial Zone, State Minister of International Trade Sujeewa Senasinghe said.
He was speaking to the media at the Department of Government Information yesterday.
State Minister Senasinghe said that Chinese Ambassador to Sri Lanka,Yi Xianliang has confirmed that 50 investors have already given the green light to invest in the Mirijjawila, Hambantota Industrial Zone.
“The confirmed investors are only from China. Fifty is a very small number of investors to China. Our target is to receive 2,000 foreign investments for this industrial zone” Senasinghe said.
Pointing out the importance of the strategic location of Sri Lanka, He said that Chinese President Xi Jinping has shown a special interest in Sri Lanka as a capitol in the new Silk Road.
“The government is expecting 5 billion USD basic foreign investments to the Hambantota Industrial Zone within the next 3-5 years, State Minister Senasinghe further said.
Minister Senasinghe also refuted the allegations that a million Chinese workers will be working in the Hambantota Industrial Zone.
“It is a false allegation, State Minister Senasinghe said. All workers in the factories will be Sri Lankans,”he confirmed.
“Why should someone think that we would launch projects for the prosperity of the Chinese is beyond us,”the State Minister said.
“The monthly salary of an average Chinese worker is 800 dollars. In Sri Lanka, it is 200 dollars. Therefore,it is highly unlikely that Chinese employees would be interested in working here,” he said.
“There is a legal framework in the country, which does not allow any and every foreigner to come and work freely in this country.The Chamber of Commerce only gives a few liecenses for foreign employees, who are mainly experts on certain subjects, to come and work in Sri Lanka,”Senasinghe pointed out.
He further pointed out that the basic salary for workers in the zone will be around Rs.40,000.
“If the employees are skilled and properly trained, they may even get an income around Rs.80,000 to Rs.90,000. The government is focused on establishing training colleges and institutes to create a suitable workforce as the employers would demand,” Senasinghe said.
“The success of the Hambantota Industrial Zone will create not just one million jobs but more than five million,” Senasinghe further said.
He pointed out that the Sri Lankan economy needs to focus on production and industries without solely focusing on services sector. “Without developing and promoting industries, our economy will go nowhere other than to an economic crisis,”he pointed out.
“The free trade zones have created 1.3 million jobs in the country. How many said no to these free trade zones?” Senasinghe questioned.
“If we are to successfully implement this project, we will be able to generate job opportunities about 35 times larger than the free trade zones did,”Senasinghe further said.
Senasinghe further pointed out the government is currently paying a maintanace fee of Rs.1,000 million for the Hambantota Port.
“The interest for the debts taken for the same is Rs.15 billion,” he further said.
“Neither Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe nor President Maithripala Sirisena are interested in the commissions they can get or deals they can enter into, when launching development projects like those in the Rajapaksa regime allegedly did with these projects,”Senasinghe also pointed out.
Senasinghe also denied the allegation that the claiming of lands for the industrial zone would destroy temples or archeological sites.
“Around 96% of the land that we are focused on, belongs to the government. Some, encouraged by the Mahinda Rajapaksa regime, are forcefully using the government owned land for their personal use. If any of these lands are developed by these people, the government will compensate them for the development they have done.” Senasinghe pointed out.