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ECONOMYNEXT – Ten years after its construction began and after an apparent false start in 2019, Sri Lanka’s Chinese-built 104-million-dollar Lotus Tower, dubbed South Asia’s tallest structure, will commence operations on September 15, the president’s office said.

A statement from the president’s media division (PMD) said on Wednesday August 31 that the Colombo Lotus Tower Private Company is engaged in negotiations with 58 investment companies and has expressed interest in entering into agreements with 22 of them.

Quoting the management company, the PMD said orders have already been made for 15 events by December 31.

“A Chinese company granted 88.65 million US dollars and the rest has been borne by the Sri Lankan government. The loan installments are due to be completed by 2024. Already, 66.3936 million of the loan has been paid,” the PMD said.

Sri Lanka is going through the worst currency crisis of its central bank’s history, with high inflation and shortages causing hardships to the public.

Entrance to the tower, built on 10.5 acres of land, will be ticketed at either 500 or 2,000 rupees for Sri Lankan visitors and 20 US dollars for foreigners. The 2,000-rupee ticket holders will not need to queue up to get in, the press release said, and can ascend the tower several times, while the 500-rupee ticket will only allow one visit to the top at a time.

Plans are also under way to introduce a QR code instead of a ticket.

The ground floor will be occupied by restaurant chains and souvenir shops and commercial banks. The first floor will be used as office space and also include a cinema, and space will be rented out to investors.

A conference hall seating 400 will be opened on the third floor, the floor on top of which will house a rotating restaurant. A viewing gallery up top will offer a ‘Kolamba Ahasa Yata (Under the Colombo Sky)’ experience, the PMD statement said.

The tower will also boast Sri Lanka’s fastest elevator system, built using Japanese technology, it added.

The Lotus Tower has been mired in controversy for years. Former Sri Lanka President Maithripala Sirisena made headlines in September 2019 when he claimed two billion rupees (11 US million dollars at the time) had been appropriated in a deal to work on the construction of the 356-metre tower.

Sirisena made this claim at no less an occasion than the opening ceremony of the tower, whose construction commenced during the tenure of his predecessor President Mahinda Rajapaksa.

President Sirisena claimed that an apparently non-existent Chinese company had vanished with two billion rupees.

The contract to build the 104.3 million US dollar tower – 80 percent of which was funded by Exim Bank of China – had been awarded in 2012 to China National Electronics Importers and Exporters Corporation (CEIEC) and Aerospace Long March International Trade Co. Ltd, (ALIT) by the Cabinet of ministers.

Reuters reported that week that ALIT had rejected the allegation.

The Export Import Bank of China had agreed to finance the 104.3 million US dollar project (about 19 billion rupees) through a loan to be repaid in 14 years, according to the telecom regulator.

Meanwhile, during its construction phase, some Indian analysts had expressed concern that the tower would turn out to be a surveillance facility to be used by Beijing.

Though the tower was declared open by President Sirisena in September 2019, it has to date not being fully opened for visitors.

“The loan agreement between the Telecommunication Regulatory Commission and China was initiated and the work on the Lotus Tower commenced in 2012. Although its construction was planned to be completed in 2015, the planned date of completion could not be met. The Chinese company completed the construction work and handed over the Lotus Tower to the Government of Sri Lanka on February 28, 2022. Thereafter, Colombo Lotus Tower Pvt. Ltd. was established and its operations were entrusted to the company,” the PMD statement said.

Chief Administrative Officer of Colombo Lotus Tower Pvt. Ltd Major General Prasad Samarasinghe (Rtd) was quoted in the statement as saying that Lotus Tower plans to avail new technological experiences “along with entertainment similar to those found in wealthy countries around the world”. Other attractions include adventure sports such as sky diving and bungee jumping.

Samarasinghe had said that, so far, 80 percent of local investors and 20 percent of foreign investors have joined the investment opportunities at the Lotus Tower.

Dialog Axiata Plc and Sri Lanka Telecom Company have already reached agreements for investments of Rs. 200 million each, the statement said. (Colombo/Aug31/2022)

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