Sri Lanka to go ahead with Mattala airport deal with India

By: | Updated: July 26, 2018 3:04 PM

Sri Lanka will go ahead with a deal with India to handover the island nation's loss-making Mattala Rajapaksa International Airport in Hambantota, the Joint Opposition said today.

The USD 210 million facility, 241-km south-east of Colombo, is dubbed the “world’s emptiest airport” due to a lack of flights. (ANI)

Sri Lanka will go ahead with a deal with India to handover the island nation’s loss-making Mattala Rajapaksa International Airport in Hambantota, the Joint Opposition said today.

The USD 210 million facility, 241-km south-east of Colombo, is dubbed the “world’s emptiest airport” due to a lack of flights.

“We met the Minister of Civil Aviation Nimal Siripala de Silva this morning to try and stop the sale of the airport to India. He told us that the government has taken the final decision to sell it,” said Mahindananda Aluthgamage, a Joint Opposition legislator.

A delegation of former president Mahinda Rajapaksa-led Joint Opposition had toured the Mattala airport yesterday.

The Airports Authority of India (AAI) will operate the Mattala airport named after Rajapaksa in his home district. The Mattala Airport was built with high interest commercial loans from China.

The private public partnership will see AAI entering a 40-year lease agreement to take up he management control of the airport.

Early this month, Siripala de Silva, speaking at the adjournment motion moved by the Opposition, said: “We need to revive this dying airport which caused a massive loss of rupees 20 billion.”

The final terms of the agreement with India, however, remains to be worked out, the minister had said.

The airport was officially opened in March 2013.

The only international flight operating from there was halted in May due to recurrent losses and flight safety issues.

The airport has the capacity to handle one million passengers a year and is expected to handle five million passengers, 50,000 tonnes of cargo and 6,250 air traffic operations per annum by 2028.

The government in 2017 invited investors to turn the airport into a profit-sharing joint venture. However no proposals were received to operate, manage and maintain it.

The seaport built in Hambantota, another Rajapaksa pet project, has been leased to China to set off Chinese loans as equity.

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