China, on Wednesday said that as of the end of 2017, Chinese companies had completed more than US 15 billion dollars worth of infrastructure projects in Sri Lanka and made great contributions to the economic and social development of the island country.
China’s Ambassador to Sri Lanka, Cheng Xueyuan, addressing the media for the first time since his posting in Colombo said that China maintained strong relations with Sri Lanka since ancient times, and in recent years it had contributed towards the economic development of the country.
The infrastructure of Sri Lanka such as roads, railways and ports had all been improved with China’s assistance in the last decade, the Ambassador said.
“After finally bringing an end to the 26-year civil conflicts in 2009, Sri Lanka found itself severely suffered from war trauma and almost torn to pieces. When standing and trembling on the war ruins, Sri Lanka called for urgent support from the international community to rebuild this beautiful country, but surprisingly found that most countries chose to remain silent and watch the situation going on with folded arms. At this critical moment, it was China once again that stood up with open arms to Sri Lanka and participated comprehensively and deeply in the post-war reconstruction of the country,” Ambassador Cheng said.
The envoy further said that as one of the first countries to openly support China’s Belt and Road Initiative, Sri Lanka is an important partner with China in the Belt and Road joint construction.
“We would like to work with our Lankan friends to further enhance mutual trust, respect and support to implement the mega projects of Colombo Port City as well as the Hambantota Port and Industrial Park, to boost the economic development of the island nation for the early harvest of joint construction of the Belt and Road Initiative and to bring tangible benefits to our two countries and peoples,” the Ambassador said.
Meanwhile when questioned on the number of Chinese nationals presently working in projects in Sri Lanka, Ambassador Cheng said that at present there were around 6000 Chinese employees including in managerial posts, who were employed in Chinese projects in the island country.
He stressed that these workers were in Sri Lanka due a need for such skilled labour and only because Sri Lanka required their expertise.
He said all workers were here on the permission of the Sri Lankan government and these workers held valid work permits.
Meanwhile International Trade Minister, Malik Samarawickrema, speaking at the briefing said Sri Lanka looked forward to being part of China’s ambitious Belt and Road initiative as it would raise the living standards of all Sri Lankans.
Samarawickrema said that China and Sri Lanka had shared strong relations since ancient times and China had assisted Sri Lanka even in its rough times.
He added that China had greatly contributed in developing Sri Lanka’s economy, especially since the end of the country’s 30 year civil conflict, and it had launched mega projects under the Belt and Road initiative which would transform Sri Lanka into an international hub in the Indian Ocean region.
He further said more Chinese companies were eager to invest in Sri Lanka under the BRI and the government welcomed these investments. “Within the next few months we hope to sign more agreements with China as we have received applications to set up a cement plant as well as rubber based industries,” Samarawickrema said.
“China is willing to assist us in improving our economy. We are well aware that before 2050, China will be the major economic power in the world. I do not think that anyone can stop that. And working with them very closely, it will only help us and the people of Sri Lanka,” Samarawickrema said.
He added that the governments of China and Sri Lanka were also negotiating a Free Trade Agreement which Sri Lanka and China hoped to sign within the coming year.
“China is sincerely looking to improve the economy of Sri Lanka and with their assistance I have no doubt Sri Lanka will be a better country in the near future,” the Minister said.