Friday, August 3, 2018

China is building a city in Sri Lanka

Guardian:

“It is a completely new city that will nearly double the size of Colombo right now,” says Janaka Wijesundara, a former director at Sri Lanka’s Urban Development Authority. “It is going to drastically change the entire landmass.”

Built on 665 acres (2.6 sq km) of land being reclaimed from the Indian Ocean, the city is designed to be a smaller Singapore, with its own business-friendly tax regime and regulations – and possibly a different legal system to the rest of Sri Lanka.

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“We took inspiration from the colonial era,”

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The idea to expand Colombo’s business district outward on to land reclaimed from the sea was first proposed in 2004. The city, located along key shipping routes across the Indian Ocean, had been a hub for trade for more than 2,000 years.

But a bloody, 25-year civil war was killing thousands of people each year. Around the time authorities were mulling an early version of Port City, Colombo was struck by its first suicide bombing since 2001. The plans were shelved for five years.

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In total, Rajapaksa borrowed about $8bn from China, much of which was spent on big-ticket infrastructure in his ancestral home district of Hambantota – which has since become a byword for the risks associated with Chinese loans. A major new airport in Hambantota receives just one flight each day. A new hospital serves as accommodation for Chinese guest workers. Attracting most scrutiny is a port that was upgraded using money borrowed from China. Earlier this year, unable to afford the repayments, Sri Lanka handed control of the port to a subsidiary of CCCC for at least 99 years.