Colombo, Oct 8 (EFE) .- Unable to cope with the costly debt that it carries, Sri Lanka is trying to get rid of an almost empty international airport and an agreement for the acquisition of aircraft by the national airline that formed the plan of the aerial delirium of former President Mahinda Rajapaksa.
Considered the world’s busiest international airport, the Mahinda Rajapaksa aerodrome (MRIA) was built in southern Mattala, the hometown of the controversial man who ruled the island between 2005 and 2015, with the capacity to move one million people and 45,000 tons of annual load.
The second international airport of the country opened its doors in 2013 as part of a gigantic project to generate a tourism and business center that only existed in the former governor’s head, but which involved the assumption in 2011 of a credit of 209 million dollars granted by the EXIM Bank of China.
Today just one airline, Fly Dubai, uses the facilities of a ghost airfield, converted into a tourist attraction for those who visit the area and for less than a dollar can buy a ticket to see the installation inside.
“The MRIA is a huge cost for the Government,” said GS Withanage, secretary of the Ministry of Civil Aviation of Sri Lanka, recalling that there is only one daily flight and that the maintenance cost is being borne by the Colombo airport.
“It’s a huge loss of money for the country,” he added.
With this panorama, the Government called a tender at the beginning of the year that, despite receiving some offers, was deserted.
However, when it seemed that all the doors were closed, an offer from the Indian Government appeared, a proposal for reasons that have not been finalized.
Efe could not immediately get a comment from the Indian Embassy, although some analysts remember that the fact that the main seaport is already in Chinese hands is not to the liking of New Delhi.
The Sri Lankan authorities now contemplate forming a joint venture with India, which has been willing to acquire $ 250 million from the shareholding of an asset that they valued at $ 293 million.
“We have asked the Indian representatives to make us a complete proposal, but we have not received the offer yet,” Withanage said.
He added that, in addition, he has asked the head of the Government Appraisal Department for an assessment of the airport.
“Once all this is done we will negotiate,” said the government spokesman.
But the problems for Sri Lanka with its air sector do not end in the port facilities.
Cancellation of acquisition
The government is trying to cancel the acquisition of the last four aircraft it acquired from the European Airbus consortium as part of a $ 2.5 billion contract to renew the fleet of state airline Sri Lankan Airlines.
The company has already canceled the acquisition of four other aircraft at the beginning of the year, paying 98 million dollars, which had a direct impact on the airline’s accounts, which closed the fiscal year last March with a loss of 181.2 million dollars. to 78 million from the previous year.
“There is an agreement for the purchase of four A350-900 for delivery in 2020, we do not need these aircraft and we would like to find a solution with Airbus,” Sri Lankan Airlines president Suren Ratwatte told Efe.
“We want to renegotiate so that we do not have to pay compensation as before, but we are still not sure what will happen,” said Ravidra Hewavitharana, secretary of the Ministry of Public Enterprise Development, under whose administration the airline is located.
A committee headed by Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe oversees the issue and the restructuring of the airline, in which the Sri Lankan government would welcome a private capital inflow.
But as with the airport, attempts to find a bidder have failed so far.