Lanka breaks ground for oil refinery with investments from Indian firm & Oman
Colombo: Sri Lanka on Sunday began construction of a $3.85 billion oil refinery next to a Chinese-run port as part of a joint venture between India's Accord Group and Oman's oil ministry, the island nation's biggest foreign direct investment ever.
Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, whose 70th birthday coincided with the ground-breaking ceremony, said that with investments coming from India, China and Oman, Hambantota is set to become a multinational investment zone.
Oman and Sri Lanka have centuries-old relationships, Oman's Oil and Gas Minister Mohammed Hamad Al Rumhy said at the ceremony.
The $3.85 billion project is the single largest foreign direct investment in the island nation's history. The refinery project, expected to complete in four years, came under criticism last week when a media report claimed that the government of Oman had rejected any knowledge of the project. China has acquired the Hambantota port for a 99-year lease as a debt swap. Beijing on Thursday said that it is "not narrow minded" to oppose the Indian investments in Sri Lanka, as it reacted guardedly to the $3.85 billion joint venture between India's Accord Group and Oman's oil ministry.
Chinese investments over the years in Sri Lanka amounted to over $eight billion adding pressure to Colombo's external debt burden.
China's acquisition of Hambantota port as a debt swap has raised concerns about Beijing's Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), which US has cautioned as debt trap specially for smaller countries.
The Belt and Road Initiative is a multi-billion-dollar initiative launched by Chinese President Xi Jinping when he came to power in 2013. It aims to link Southeast Asia, Central Asia, the Gulf region, Africa and Europe with a network of land and sea route.