Millennium Post

Sri Lanka asks AAI to submit biz plan on Mattala airport operation

Colombo: Sri Lanka has asked the Airport Authority of India to submit its business plan for operating the country's loss-making Mattala Rajapaksa International Airport in southern Hambantota, Civil Aviation Minister Nimal Siripala de Silva told parliament on Thursday.

The minister's remarks came in response to the Opposition's question asking the government to disclose the details of the deal.

The $210 million facility, 241-km south-east of Colombo, is dubbed the "world's emptiest airport".

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.

Airport Authority of India (AAI) and Sri Lanka's Civil Aviation Authority will enter into a joint venture agreement to operate the airport, named after former President Mahinda Rajapaksa in his home district.

The Mattala Airport was built with high interest commercial loans from China.

"We asked for proposals to operate this loss making airport," de Silva said when the Airport Authority of India came forward with a 70-30 per basis joint venture.

"They have to give us the business plan, how many flights they would bring in, which Indian airlines would service this airport," he said.

Former President Mahinda Rajapaksa led Joint Opposition has dubbed the proposed deal as a sell out.

Early this month, de Silva while speaking at the adjournment motion moved by the Opposition had 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 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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