National Agency for Public- Private Partnerships Established
Sri Lankan government has established a national agency for public -private partnerships, which succeeded its predecessor unit within the Ministry of Finance and Mass Media. The new national agency is expected a have a more widespread legal, administrative and financial powers than the previous unit. The announcement came as a result of recognizing a division within the finance ministry was insufficient to handle the promoting and executing of existing projects as it only possessed a limited authority.
The newly minted National Agency will be headed up by Former BOI Chairman Thilan Wijesinghe. He is a respected and career business professional and whose appointment has been viewed as a very positive move. He was formerly director and Chairman for the BOI and is currently the Chairman of TWCorp Ltd, Sapphirus Lanka Ltd and Digital Commerce Lanka Ltd.
The Agency would have the authority to identify suitable projects based on feasibility studies and maintain a ‘project pipeline’ alongside government authorities. Its scope will also allow it to select and implement PPP projects as well as provide guidance and advise to ministries as may be requested or to any other government institutions. LKR 100 million has been allocated for the setting up costs of the agency from the treasury with 7 members with extensive industry experience completing the agency.
According to the Chairman of National Agency, Sri Lanka will focus on finding PPP projects on a wide range of areas including transport, utilities, ports, tourism, construction Also, areas such as housing, health care, financial services as well as information technology and mining and minerals sector are also expected to attract priority.
Speaking at the Sri Lanka Economic Summit 2017, he was quoted “We will look at PPPs in new projects in which the government has long term interests with the government opting for equity and land stakes” and “Projects in the pipeline include the elevated highway from the new Kelani bridge to Athurugiriya and the underground road to extend Marine Drive and connect with the port access road”.
He also noted that projects in inland air transport, light rail transit, utility projects in water, waste to energy, and industrial zones will act as a catalyst to economic growth in Sri Lanka. He gave special focus to the mineral sector of Sri Lanka while remarking that it was neglected for over 20 years. He noted Sri Lanka currently possesses a phosphate deposit that could comfortably meet Sri Lanka’s demand as well as export demands for a few decades.
Sri Lanka is pushing for more and more PPP type projects as it seeks to continue development works amidst balancing a growing debt problem. Many of the projects that have been planned have PPP expectations in mind and setting up an agency specifically for this end will go a long way toward ensuring effective implementation of these projects. Focusing on underutilized areas such as mineral, energy and agriculture is likely to bring larger return of investments for private sector and the agency has already identified such opportunities which is clear indication this is an agency with a clear vision and purpose with wide ranging powers.
Also, the appointment of a top professional has been a much-lauded move from the industry especially as it was during Mr. Thilan Wijesinghe time as the BOI chairman Sri Lanka brokered its first PPP project there is significant cause for optimism. He has also been one of the top advocates for PPP in Sri Lanka and OSL expects National Agency for PPP to make rapid progress in the times ahead.
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