Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe said yesterday that it was only through engaging in dialogue and accepting the convergences of these systems and cultures that we could enrich our own nation at a time when social equities and equalities of market economies as well as religious extremism had come to the forefront.
Mr. Wickremesinghe expressed these views addressing the 12th World Islamic Economic Forum held yesterday in Jakarta, Indonesia.
"I would like to conclude by proposing to you a vision of convergence for our future - a convergence of our heritages from our historic trading past, the multiple forces of globalization and secular western economic models, our own religious ethics and practices, and the challenges and opportunities of the present times that are inextricably interwoven with the future of Islamic and secular societies worldwide," he said.
"The Islamic nations of the world have, by and large, weathered the economic storm far better than other countries. Being blessed with a vast array of natural resources that have been judiciously harnessed to bring rapid economic and social progress to your societies, the Islamic crescent of nations stretching from Africa to South East Asia has seen progress and prosperity for several decades," he said.
Excerpts from the Prime Minister's speech:
We must not forget that a key driver of growth for the entire Asian region will be the expansion of intra-Asian trade in the coming century. And, I see significant advances in the liberalization of intra-Asian trade barriers in the coming decade.
Today, with a population of 1.7 billion and an impressive growth rate that the World Bank calls the highest in the world, South Asia is very much the place to be in.
While maximizing on the opportunities presented by Western economic policies, we also need to learn from our own cultures of Buddhism Hinduism and Islam.
For instance, there is much that secular states can lean from the principles of Islamic Commercial Law - in particular, the notion of fair industrial relations, the notion of fair contract, the notion of commercial integrity, and the notion of freedom from usury.
Sri Lanka has long been acknowledged as having the potential to become a geo-economic centre in the Indian Ocean. With this in mind, we are implementing the next round of macro-economic structural reforms in conjunction with an ambitious programme of infrastructural development.
Firstly, the Kandy-Colombo-Hambantota Corridor. This Corridor consists of a series of major infrastructure developments consisting of the Kandy City Expansion Programme. The North-Western Industrial and Tourism Development Programme will be the dynamo for employment and growth. The Western Megapolis Plan, which is designed to urbanize the entire Western Province, will make it an environmentally conscious, sustainable mega city of the 21st century (with a population of 8.5 million people).
The Southern Tourism Infrastructure Development Programme centering on the historic city of Galle.The Hambantota Economic Development Programme, which will bring industrialization to the Southern territories and enhance its tourist potential. Incidentally Hambantota, in the southern tip of the island, is the historical port to which sampans arrived from the straits of Java and Malaya.
Furthermore, 269 hectares is currently being reclaimed from the sea to become a Financial City. This will provide a base for logistical and financial services in South Asia, and will complement the chain of business hubs from Hong Kong, to Singapore to Dubai.These initiatives will be supported by two international airports in Mattala and Katunayake and two harbours in Colombo and Hambantota. Finally, the Government has also signed an agreement with Surbana Jurong Private Limited to prepare a master plan for the Trincomalee Economic Development Project on the East Coast
Moving on to the trade front - we are currently navigating trade liberalization through a mixture of initiatives. We have undertaken several bilateral trade enhancement initiatives, which will accelerate Sri Lanka’s access to the world’s major markets.
The Governments of India and Sri Lanka will finalize the Economic Technology Cooperation Agreement (ETCA) by the end of the year.
Finalising a Free Trade Agreement with China in 2017. This will connect us to the One Belt-One Road initiative.
Negotiating a Free Trade Agreement with Singapore, which we plan to conclude very soon.Establishing closer Economic Cooperation with Japan.Expanding the existing trade treaties with our neighbours in South Asia.And we are also looking to explore trade agreements with other Bay of Bengal nations - Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand and Myanmar, and West Asia.