Financial Times

Colombo, Gampaha and Kalutara most competitive Sri Lankan cities

By Jagdish Hathiramani

The Colombo Metropolitan Region (CMR), comprising the Colombo, Gampaha and Kalutara districts, encompasses the top three performing cities respectively in terms of national competitiveness, according to a recent survey of 14 Sri Lankan cities.

At the other end, the city with the lowest overall score is Trincomalee. This determination was made after a study of six performance indicators in each of the country’s 14 major cities. The indicators were: 1). Cost of Doing Business; 2). Dynamism of Local Economy; 3). Human Resources and Training; 4). Infrastructure; 5). Responsiveness of Local Government Units to Business Needs; and 6). Quality of Life.

This data was part of a Cities Competitiveness Analysis which is the cornerstone of the Clustered Cities Development (CCD) project, an Asian Development Bank initiative currently being researched in Dhaka (Bangladesh), Delhi (India) and Colombo. Colombo-specific research for this project was presented by its local facilitators, Sevanatha Urban Resource Centre, at the project's Second Round Table held at Water's Edge recently. The event featured the participation of a diverse group of senior personnel from several public and private enterprises including the Ministries of Environment and Urban Planning, the Central Bank, the University of Moratuwa, the Colombo Municipal Council, the Joint Apparel Association Forum (JAAF), the Federation of Chambers of Commerce and Industry of Sri Lanka (FCCISL) and the Board of Investment (BOI) amongst others.

The objective of the research into the project is to look at how to foster Clustered City Developments, with the expectation that clustered cities allow for improved competitiveness and sustainable development through the achievement of better economic and physical planning for cities. This new approach to city planning is an effort to curb chronic problems such as overcrowding, the need for new land to grow, traffic and environmental concerns by proactively planning for the future, creating a new image for Sri Lanka, adopting new aspirations for inhabitants and competing globally. This is especially important as the population of CMR is expected to swell to 8 million people in 2030 from current estimates of 5 million.

The ultimate goal of the project is to incorporate Clustered City Developments into the city planning process allowing for collaborative advantage to be achieved. Presently, following several focus group discussions, there have been several industry sectors recommended as areas for future growth based on high consistent growth patterns visible in the last 10 years. These will ideally be the focus for government resources in the future. These industries include IT and education, financial services and insurance, shipping and aviation and tourism.

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