China's Belt and Road initiative is a golden opportunity to national development

Sri Lanka has become one of the first countries to openly support China's Belt and Road Initiative, since it is highly compatible with Sri Lanka's national development strategy and a golden opportunity to develop the island nation, Chinese Ambassador to Sri Lanka Cheng Xueyuan said. Chinese Ambassador Cheng Xueyuan made these remarks in an article, titled "Jointly Building the Belt And Road: A Golden Opportunity to the National Development of Sri Lanka", on Monday.

Conveying his best wishes on the occasion of Sinhala and Tamil New Year, Ambassador Cheng shared his opinions on the practical cooperation between the two countries under the framework of Belt and Road Initiative, in order to better benefit the two countries and peoples. Ambassador Cheng noting that Sri Lanka has been an important stop on the Maritime Silk Road ever since ancient times said the two countries in the past five years have made significant progress in jointly building the Belt and Road Initiative in Sri Lanka through which the country's economy has greatly benefited.

The Ambassador pointed out that it was China that stood up with open hands and participated in the reconstruction in all directions at the critical moment when Sri Lanka did not receive the expected foreign support in infrastructure construction and financial investment after it defeated the 30-year long civil war in 2009. "I am glad to learn that President Sirisena, Prime Minister Wickramasinghe, and other political leaders of Sri Lanka all expressed their willingness to actively participate in jointly building the Belt and Road and make full use of Sri Lanka's superior geographical position to build itself as the Hub of Indian Ocean. More and more Sri Lankan friends realize that the BRI is a golden opportunity for the development of its economy and the improvement of its people's livelihood," the Ambassador said.

Highlighting the projects supported by China under the BRI, the Ambassador said in the past five years, the two countries have made significant progress in jointly building the Belt and Road in Sri Lanka. He said China has supported mega projects in Sri Lanka including the Lakvijaya Power Station which has been providing about 40 percent of the nation's electricity supply and ended the history of frequent power cuts in the country. The Katunayake Expressway (Colombo airport expressway) has brought great convenience to international travelers and contributed to the blooming of tourism while the Colombo International Container Terminal, a Sino-SL joint venture, becomes a fastest growing container terminal in the world, he noted.

The Ambassador Cheng highlighted that the newly completed Moragahakanda Project, which is the biggest reservoir in Sri Lanka, has brought great benefits to local agriculture and people and in October this year, section-I of Southern Railway, the first railway to be built in the past 100 years, will be officially opened while the expressway linking Colombo and Hambantota will also be connected by the end of next year. As of the end of 2017, Chinese companies have completed more than US$15 billion infrastructure projects in Sri Lanka such as transportation, water, electricity, ports and other fields, and made great contributions to the economic and social development of Sri Lanka, he noted.

"In addition, our pragmatic cooperation has also created more than 100,000 jobs for Sri Lanka, trained tens of thousands of technical and management personnel. Take the CICT as an example, it employs more than 1,000 local technical staff, accounting 90% of its total employees. Such kind of cooperation laid a solid foundation for Sri Lanka to further its own development," the Ambassador said. He emphasized that China and Sri Lanka have strong complementarities, and the potential for cooperation is still far from being released. Colombo Port City together with Hambantota Port and Industrial Zone are like two powerful engines for Sri Lankan economy to take-off and will boost Sri Lanka's Fast Development, the Ambassador said adding that with the continuous development of these mega-projects, Sino-Sri Lanka economic and trade cooperation is expected to start a new chapter.

Colombo Port City is jointly developed by a Chinese company and Sri Lanka Urban Development Authority, aiming to build a shipping, logistics, tourism and financial center in South Asia, with a direct investment of US$ 1.4 billion and a planned second-level Building Complex of US$ 13 billion. It is expected that more than 80,000 jobs will be created. At present, 80% of the land reclamation projects have been completed, and the investment promotion of CIFC Building Complex is also proceeding smoothly. The Port City has already attracted the great attention of a large number of investors from China, the US, and Europe etc.

"With the blue waters and pink sunset of the Indian Ocean, the under-construction port city site has become the most spectacular and beautiful scenery in Colombo," he said. The Chinese Ambassador observed that with its excellent location, Hambantota will play an important role for the development of the southern region of Sri Lanka. To facilitate it, China has undertaken the construction of the Hambantota Port at the request of the Sri Lankan government. Three months since the government of Sri Lanka signing an agreement with Chinese company to operate the port, the entire port is now developing fast with a constant change, he said and added that thee ro-ro shipping business has increased significantly, and the shipping supply business is rapidly recovering.

Ambassador Cheng underscored that China in the new era expects closer collaboration with Sri Lanka. "We sincerely expect all sectors in Sri Lanka to join hands with us to jointly build the Belt and Road and a Sino-Sri Lanka destiny community, to jointly create a beautiful and bright future for our two peoples."