Ranil to lead high-level delegation to China

RanilA high-level delegation led by Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe is expected to visit China this year to strengthen ties between both countries, the Xinhua Chinese news agency quoted a Minister as saying.

Wickremesinghe’s visit will come at a time when Sri Lanka resumes all its development projects which were suspended by his government earlier last year.

The projects include a multi-billion-dollar port city project funded by China in the capital city and other leisure facilities.

“During the visit, several key areas are expected to be discussed by both sides including the resumption of the suspended projects. China is a key partner for Sri Lanka and this government is committed to further boosting ties,” the minister who did not wish to be named, has said.

President Maithripala Sirisena, who defeated former strongman Mahinda Rajapaksa in a presidential election in January last year, himself visited China in March.

Although there were immediate reports that relations between the two countries soured with the suspension of the Chinese-backed projects, Sirisena has expressed his will to seek further improved ties between the two countries.

With suspended projects and Sri Lanka’s economy not performing as expected due to political instability with the parliamentary election in August 2015, Sri Lanka is hoping that more cooperation with China would give its economy a much-needed boost in the year ahead.

The country’s tourism industry which suffered a severe blow following decades of conflict, became the number one foreign exchange earner, largely due to the increase in Chinese and Indian tourists.

By the end of last year, China became the number one market for the most number of tourist arrivals, with the government vowing to do more in 2016 to attract a larger crowd.

“We want more Chinese tourists coming. In 2016, we want to double the number of tourists coming here,” said senior advisor to the tourism minister, Felix Srimal Rodrigo.

With an influx of Chinese tourists, the Sri Lankan government is presently negotiating with the Chinese government to expand air links between the two countries.

The Sirisena-Wickremesinghe administration has also announced that it would resume all suspended projects in Sri Lanka by early this year. (Colombo Gazette)