Local experts offer insights on $480 million MCC compact projects

First appeared in Sunday Morning, Sunday Observer, News First, Daily Mirror and Economy Next

The Advocata Institute hosted a public forum on the MCC compact “එම්.සී.සී. ගිවිසුම ගැන ඇත්ත නැත්ත”  on the 19th of September, with the aim of separating fact from fiction around this hotly debated topic. 

Since 2015, Sri Lanka was engaged in a competitive selection process for the  Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) grant. In April 2019, Sri Lanka was awarded a grant from the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) for USD 480 million. Since the awarding  of the Compact, concerns around the agreement had gone unaddressed.

To help provide a public platform for the addressal of these concerns, The Advocata Institute convened an open discussion with experts involved in designing the projects for the MCC Compact, Prof. Amal Kumarage (Head of the Department of Transport and Logistics Management, University of Moratuwa); Dr. Saman Widanapathiranage (Deputy Director, Highway Designs at the Road Development Authority (RDA) and Mr. Sarath Jayatilaka (Former Deputy Surveyor General); MCC representatives, Ms. Jenner Endleman (Sri Lanka Resident Country Director - Millennium Challenge Corporation) and the Government, Dr Jagath Munasinghe (Chairman, Urban Development  Authority). 

The experts highlighted the technical details of the Land and Transport Management projects in the grant followed by a Q&A with representatives of the MCC and the Government. 

Prof. Amal Kumarage explained that out of USD 350 million allocated to the Transport Project, USD 50 million would be spent on Bus Services Modernization. He stated that by 2030, the number of vehicles on our roads will triple and it is crucial for our transport system to reflect this. 

Dr. Saman Widanapathiranage (Deputy Director, Highway Designs at the Road Development Authority (RDA) discussed the Advanced Traffic Management System component in the Transport Project. He stated how average speed in Colombo will reduce to 10kmph by 2030, communicating the urgency of improving the city’s traffic management. 

Mr. Sarath Jayatilaka (Former Deputy Surveyor General) detailed the Land Project in the compact which amounts to USD 67 million of the total grant. Since the Sri Lankan government owns 82% of all land and the remaining 18% land is privately owned, he emphasised the importance of developing a State Land Bank to improve land administration policies. 

Joining the Q&A, MCC Sri Lanka Resident Country Director Ms. Jenner Endleman answered some concerns around the compact. To the question of whether the MCC Compact is linked to military agreements, she answered that MCC has no relation to ACSA or SOFA and that the MCC Compact was ready for signing before the renewal of these military agreements. Another question posed was why the Compact was not available in the public domain and that she stated that itis the MCC’s policy to not share the document prior to it being signed by the recipient government. However, she urged concerned citizens to reach out to the Government to release these documents, as they are in a position to share the agreement. 

“In our 15 year history, we’ve never had a situation where an eligible country has come to us and proposed a grant, our board has accepted it, and that same partner country has not approved it” stated Mr. Endleman addressing questions from the audience.