Interview : Qitao Liu

What is the potential for Port City Colombo to attract foreign direct investment to Sri Lanka?

QITAO LIU: Port City Colombo is a new city development being built as an extension of the existing central business district of Colombo, with an initial investment of $1.4bn and a total projected investment of $15bn at today’s value when completed. Spanning 269 ha, it is a sea reclamation project made up of five different precincts: the Financial District, International Island, Central Park Living, Island Living and the Marina. When completed, it is estimated that Port City Colombo will have some 5.65m sq metres of built-up space, offering offices, medical facilities, educational facilities, an integrated resort, marina, an assortment of retail destinations, hotels, luxury residential units and various lifestyle developments. Using some of the latest sustainable city design and smart city concepts, it is hoped that Port City Colombo will become a centre of South Asia.

Planned by the Swedish engineering firm Sweco, with design control regulations done by Surbana Jurong from Singapore and a team of international consultants, Port City Colombo aims to attract international developers to be part of this greenfield development. An additional positive is that the project will have clean land titles, a rarity in the region.

Why is Colombo suitable for this development?

LIU: Port City Colombo is strategically located along the Maritime Silk Road. Approximately 60,000 ships carrying two-thirds of the world’s oil shipments and half of the world’s containers pass through this trade route annually. The Port of Colombo is also the busiest container port within South Asia, reaffirming its position as a trade centre in the region.

Sri Lanka is working to finalise free trade agreements with China and Singapore, while discussions to upgrade the existing Economic and Technology Cooperation Agreement with India are also on track. Meanwhile, the EU’s Generalised System of Preferences Plus trade concession status was recently granted to Sri Lanka. These advances will elevate the country’s trade and economic position in the region, and offer further access to key markets, such as Europe, China, India and South-east Asia, which together hold over 50% of the global population.

In addition, Colombo is within three hours’ flight from major cities in South Asia and is about four hours away from Singapore and Dubai. The government of Sri Lanka is attempting to leverage on this location advantage and is working to transform Port City Colombo into an international financial city. Supported by new commercial legislation, alongside incentives for investors, the new city will be well positioned to serve the region and fill the vacuum between Singapore and Dubai.

How will Port City Colombo help attract expertise to the region and improve local skillsets?

LIU: Port City Colombo is seeking to have multinational corporations and international companies set up regional headquarters and offices in the area, with the development expected to generate 83,000 new jobs. During the land reclamation phase of the project, Sri Lankans make up almost 80% of the total manpower. As a result, the transfer of knowledge and introduction to new technologies among the local workforce is already taking place.

In terms of liveability, Colombo was already ranked the most liveable city in South Asia in Mercer’s Quality Living index for 2017. Through catalytic projects – such as the international school, medical and convention facilities, an integrated resort, retail destinations and other lifestyle developments – we believe we will be able to further improve the city’s liveability as well as enhance the lifestyle of its occupants. In turn, this should attract top global talents and high-net-worth individuals from the region.