The Indian envoy in Colombo took an indirect swipe at the Chinese at a public function in Colombo on Friday . Ashok K. Kantha, India’s High Commissioner in Sri Lanka said that Indian projects in the island would engage the local private sector.
There will be no Indian labour involved in such projects, Kantha, speaking at the inauguration of an Indian trade exhibition said.
It’s known that Chinese driven development projects here engage Chinese labour and not local, thereby denying the country’s economy and its people immediate benefits from such development works.
Listing the projects for the North and East (NE), where India’s focus is, Kantha said that India has earmarked US$ 250 million to build 50,000 houses in that area. The Government of Sri Lanka is preparing the list of beneficiaries in this connection.
Another US$ 800 million has been earmarked for the development of the rail track in the North, with works to start in October. He further said that ports and airports (Palaly) development in the North are also in the pipeline. There is also a 500 mega Watt joint venture power project in Trincomalee.
He refuted fears from certain business quarters here that the prospective Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA) with India would result in the loss of jobs to Sri Lankans.
On the contrary, the free movement of labour has not been included in the proposals, he said. The proposed CEPA is asymmetrically favourable to the island, he said.
Kantha said that CEPA centred round investments and services, broadening the scope of the free trade agreement between the two countries which is limited to goods.
He said that India with its 1.1. billion people is an economic powerhouse, expected to grow at 8.5% this year.
“Role of the governments will be enablers and facilitators where business will be conducted by the private sector in those projects,” Kantha said. All tourist and business visas are processed in a day, he said, amidst complaints that there are inordinate delays in getting one’s visa to India. The proposal to open consulates in Hambantota and Jaffna was to expedite visa clearance, he said.
Kantha said that peace has opened up windows of opportunity for trade and business deals between the two countries.
He said that India looked at Sri Lanka as a sister and does not have a big brother attitude. India and Sri Lanka are sisters.
Commerce Minister Rishad Bataiudeen in response to a question made by this reporter that despite peace, his entourage of security personnel were a nuisance to the masses of this country and what he was going to do about it, Bataiudeen in reply said that they will be gradually withdrawn. The exhibition was organized by the Federation of Chambers of Commerce and Industry of Sri Lanka and the Sri Lanka Exhibition and Convention Centre.
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