India-Lanka to discuss joint airport venture
Colombo, July 5: An Indian delegation is here to discuss a possible joint venture to operate the loss-making Mattala international airport in southern Sri Lanka, the government said.
Sri Lankan Deputy Minister of Transport Ashok Abeysinghe stated this in parliament while answering an opposition query on whether the Mattala airport would be sold outright.
Abeysinghe said India has expressed willingness to operate the airport as a Sri Lanka-India joint venture.
"Despite making losses the airport would never be sold," he said.
Mattala airport, named after former president Mahinda Rajapaksa, was a China-supported infrastructure project in his home district of Hambantota.
The USD 210 million facility is dubbed the world's emptiest airport due to a lack of flights. The only international flight operating from there was halted in May due to recurrent losses and flight safety issues.
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 the airport.
The seaport built in Hambantota, another Rajapaksa pet project, has been leased to China to set off Chinese loans as equity.
The Rajapaksa-led opposition has called the Hambantota seaport deal a sell out of national assets to China.