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By Deepal Warnakulasuriya

Around 20,000 employment opportunities will be created during the first week of 2017 via a number of mega development projects all over the island, Media Minister and Cabinet Co-Spokesman Gayantha Karunathilake told the weekly cabinet news briefing.

He said that the foundation stone was laid for an automobile assembly factory in Kuliyapitiya yesterday and it would generate about 2,500 new job opportunities in the area. “Prime Minister also declared open the MAS Fabric Park in Giriulla on same day and the project has been planned to create around 3,000 employment opportunities.

“A tyre manufacturing plant will be started tomorrow (January 05) at Horana in Kalutara district. A glove manufacturing company will also be started in the Koggala Free Trade Zone in Galle district on January 05. The 12 acre factory will generate 7000 employment opportunities,” Minister Karunathilake added.

Meanwhile, Cabinet Co-Spokesman and Health Minister Dr. Rajitha Senaratne said that a businessman from India has asked for 7,000 acres for a drug manufacturing zone. “He has agreed to meet the cost of developing the necessary infrastructure and to bring seven large drug manufacturing companies to the country,” he said.

Referring to development projects in the south he said that both Hambantota Port and the Mattala Airport are useful and must projects, but the previous government did not develop them into the required and planned levels.

“Port in Hambantota was planned with an Oil bunkering facility and the Airport was planned with an industrial hub for the Magampura area. Hambantota Port is just 12 nautical miles away from an international shipping route. Out of over 700 ships that go pass daily, if we can get at least 70 ships vising Hambantota Port, we could earn over US one billion dollars per year. The main target of Hambantota Port was the fuel business, but they forgot the target and built only the harbour,” Minister Senaratne said.

He also said during last provincial council elections in Uva and South, Mahinda Rajapaksa led campaigns promised a Free Trade Zone of 15,000 acres for the area. “Our plan was to use both the harbour and the Airport to export the products. As a member of the then Government, I spoke to the people about the project on Shasheendra Rajapaksa’s political meetings. However, the Airport was built, but not the Free Trade Zone.”

“What we are going to do is to set up the planned Free Trade Zone. The MR regime didn’t want to complete the project as they planned and it was handled according to the political calendars,” he added. Minister further said the project which targeted hundred thousands of jobs will be made a reality by the Good Governance regime and the agreement for the project will be signed next Monday; January 09