MALAYSIA will construct Sri Lankas first toll road from Colombo to Kandy, which is expected to cut travelling time from 2 hours 45 minutes to a mere 55 minutes.
Santusht Jayasuria from the Sri Lankan board of investment said Works Minister Datuk Seri S. Samy Vellu had been in and out of the country and there had been some agreement on the deal.
Santusht, who is the executive director of the countrys Bureau of Infrastructure Investment, a division of the investment board, said tenders took time and as this road was badly needed, it was decided this should be done on a government-to-government basis without delay.
Sri Lanka has poor roads and the 110km journey from Colombo to Kandy, the countrys second largest city, takes almost three hours.
Santusht believed that Sri Lankans would get into the culture of paying toll to go on good roads.
Hailing from Kandy himself, he told Malaysian journalists who were in the country at the invitation of the Sri Lankan government: I would pay anything to go on that road because of a lack of hassle. I could come to work in just 55 minutes.
The cost of the highway is 21 billion Sri Lankan rupees. There are also plans for Malaysia to take over the Colombo-Katunayake expressway.
Santusht said Roadbuilder Bhd had carried out 55% of the work but had pulled out for some reason.
I am made to understand that Samy Vellu is interested in this, too. So it looks like you guys will have our road projects, he said.
After 20 years of ethnic strife with peace efforts now under way between the Sri Lankan government and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Ealam, the country is getting back on its feet to restart its economy.
The board of investment will be visiting Malaysia later this month to talk to investors on opportunities in infrastructure projects such as highways, a light rapid transit system (LRT) in the capital, seaports, airports as well as energy and power generation.
We are very serious about infrastructure projects getting off the ground, Santusht said, adding that Sri Lanka aimed to be the Hong Kong of India.
He said it was the only country to have a free trade agreement with India and thus could be the gateway to the huge market there. It is also looking at building a 23km land bridge linking the two countries.
Santusht said Sri Lanka believed that it had oil and gas on the west coast and licences would be available soon for drilling.
Two Malaysian companies, one of which is Petronas, had expressed great interest in this project, he said.
Colombo port, which is congested, is expected to have a new pier with 12 berths and these will be privatised, according to Santusht.