Cabinet nod awaited for drafted duty-free regulations to set up South Asia’s first downtown duty-free mall
Posted on August 5th, 2022

Courtesy The Daily Mirror

  • The facility to be operated by two of world’s leading DF operators to showcase Sri Lanka as a world-class dining destination 
  • Key regulations been drafted prioritising strategically-important businesses backed by an expedited approval system

As the construction of Colombo Port City’s downtown duty-free (DF) Mall steams ahead, the Colombo Port City Economic Commission (CPCEC) awaits the Cabinet nod for the drafted duty-free regulations for South Asia’s first downtown duty-free mall, which is to be operated by two global operators, positioning Colombo Port City (CPC) as a regional shopping destination.

According to CPCEC’s biannual progress report, the infrastructure work of the mall has been completed and the interior fit work is scheduled to begin shortly.

Colombo Port City Duty-Free Regulations have been drafted and are awaiting Cabinet approval. The facility will be operated by two of the world’s leading DF operators, positioning Colombo Port City as a regional shopping destination,” CPCEC biannual progress report said.

Further, negotiations are also ongoing to introduce a leading global food & beverage operator into CPC, offering a range of East, West, and fusion cuisine, creating a ‘watering hole’ concept for DF shopping, while positioning the facility as a world-class dining destination in Colombo. 

In order to streamline the shopping experience for departing overseas travellers, the CPCEC is also drawing up a feasibility plan on ‘remote check-in process’ and ‘checked-in baggage hauling’.

Meanwhile, CPCEC highlighted that the drafting of key regulations has already been completed in prioritising strategically-important businesses backed by an expedited approval system.

Key regulations have been finalised which are Businesses of Strategic Importance, Offshore Companies, Authorised persons, Duty-Free retail operations, Fees and Development Control Regulations (DCR). These key regulations were completed, together with international consultants, with the development of suitable draft policies and procedures for identified thrust sectors, designed with extensive benchmarking studies to best-in-class regulations in fiscal and non-fiscal areas,” the report stated.

Moreover, CPCEC in collaboration with the Department of Immigration and Emigration has also begun streamlining and automating the visa application and approval process for three defined visa types under the CPC law. 
The three visa categories are: investor visa (10 years), employment visas (dependent on the contract tenure), and long-term residence visas (dependent on lease tenure) and include all dependents.

With an aim of positioning CPC as a regional arbitration centre, CPCEC is currently in discussion with the Singapore International Arbitration Centre (SIAC) about offering the International Commercial Dispute Resolution Centre services to international operators and/or obtaining technical assistance from the SIAC under an MOU with the Ministry of Justice of Sri Lanka.

Meanwhile, the Monetary Board of Central Bank and Ministry of Finance have approved the CPCEC regulated offshore licenses for four banks initially. Further, the CB has taken steps to create a new class of accounts available for all banks under its regulatory purview— the Colombo Port City Investment Account— designed to facilitate the inflow of funds to be used exclusively for investing in CPC.

In addition, an expedited process has been established with the Registrar of Companies in Sri Lanka for the ease of setting up companies under Colombo Port City law, under the Single Window Facilitation process mandate defined in Section 30 of the CPCEC Act.

The Commission is conducting a detailed ESG (Environmental, Social, and Governance) benchmarking study of the most climate-friendly cities in the world to apply best practices in the development of Colombo Port City infrastructure and facilities.

So far, out of the 34 marketable land plots in CPC granted to the Project Company on 99-year lease basis, six plots have been released back to the Commission by the Project Company and the Commission had granted six fresh Indenture of leases for a 99-year period to the investors valued at approximately US$ 200 million, where investors have committed to invest US$ 600 million collectively.

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