Sri Lanka moves to free prime property in capital

Chandi Dharmaratne

Apr 16, 2010 (LBO) – Prime property in Sri Lanka’s capital Colombo could be made available to private developers when the government goes ahead with a planned shift of state institutions, including defence, to the suburbs, officials said.

“We’re waiting for the green light,” said an official of the Urban Development Authority, which is in charge of urban planning.

The government has decided all administrative functions must go to Sri Jayawardenepura, a new city west of Colombo, he said.

“We will not keep a single government entity in Colombo.”

The new city was planned as the administrative capital, leaving Colombo, where most companies have their offices, as the commercial capital.

Some government offices were shifted in the early years of the plan but many more remain.

‘Sethsiripaya’, a government office complex in Sri Jayewardenepura, is being expanded with more office blocks being built to accommodate the latest planned shift.

Government institutions, including the armed forces, have their offices in Colombo on locations which have now become prime property with very high commercial values as the economy grew and land values shot up.

Previous plans to shift the defence institutions out of Colombo were shelved because of the ethnic war, which ended last May.

“Even defence institutions will be relocated – we’re waiting for the green light,” said the UDA official.

The army headquarters, for instance, occupies a large extent of land next to the Taj Samudra hotel, in front of which is Colombo’s Galle Face Green promenade, facing the sea, and behind which is the man-made Beira Lake.

“We can release a lot of land, such as next to the Taj, with the waterfront on both sides,” said the UDA official.

Relocation of government institutions would free up more land for private developers in Colombo where land is in short supply and values high.

The end of the 30-year ethnic war is expected to lead to an economic revival and a construction boom.