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Most central bankers would relish an office with an unobstructed view of the Indian Ocean’s sparkling waters. Sri Lanka Governor Arjuna Mahendran finds it dull.

He would rather see skyscrapers dotting the horizon as cargo vessels deposit containers into Colombo’s ports. Right now, piles of sand and stones remind him daily of a stalled China-backed $1.4 billion plan to build a city on reclaimed land that may attract even more investment dollars.

“I’m hopeful that they will actually recommence this project,” Mahendran said from the 15th floor of the central bank on the eve of parliamentary elections. “It will be transformative in many ways for the Sri Lankan economy.”
The comments reflect a change in tone since President Maithripala Sirisena vowed to pivot away from China when he ended Mahinda Rajapaksa’s 10-year rule in January. Even though Rajapaksa failed in a bid to become prime minister in parliamentary elections on Monday, China appears resurgent — mostly because Sirisena needs its cash to jump start growth.

Results showed Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe’s United National Party, which backed Sirisena, winning 106 seats in the 225-person parliament — just short of a majority. Rajapaksa’s party came in second. Sirisena is expected to appoint Wickremesinghe for another term as early as Wednesday.

The Colombo port city is now likely to go ahead even as Sri Lanka boosts ties with Western nations and India, according to Razeen Sally, an associate professor at the National University of Singapore. The project has a “pretty strong commercial logic” and China has ample funds, he said.