From left: OBG Managing Editor Paulius Kuncinas, Board of Investment Chairman Upul Jayasuriya, Foreign Affairs Deputy Minister Dr. Harsha de Silva, Standard Chartered Sri Lanka CEO Jill Griffin and First Capital Holdings PLC CEO Dilshan Wirasekara PIC BY KUSHAN PATHIRAJA
By Chandeepa Wettasinghe The Oxford Business Group (OBG), a top global publisher and consultancy, yesterday expressed that Sri Lanka is one of the most attractive investment destinations in Asia, at the launch of the inaugural count ry report for Sri Lanka.
“In our view, Sri Lanka is arguably one of the most attractive investment destinations in Asia. After one year of research I can say, Sri Lanka really stands out from the crowd,” the Oxford Business Group Managing Editor Paulius Kuncinas said. He noted that most macroeconomic indicators have seen positive progress over the past few years and that Sri Lanka is a genuine recovery story, with the most important caveat being the restoration of a strong and stable democracy.
“It has been bumpy, but no one could question the commitment to inclusive growth. The country should be able to deliver a growth of 6 percent going forward,” he added. The Central Bank recently revised its growth projection to 5 percent, while the government insists that the continuous changes in policies are a result of the past regime’s mistakes, as well as the government being more democratic and listening to the public.
OBG’s local partner First Capital Holdings PLC CEO Dilshan Wirasekara however dismissed this theory. “We really require policy consistency. We can’t be changing policies frequently because that results in volatility and scares away investors,” he said. However, he noted that there has been progress in macroeconomic fundamentals over the past six months and will continue to be so for the coming six months, which was affirmed by Standard Chartered CEO Jim McCabe, who said that foreign direct investments, as a result have increased over the past few months. This view was not shared by Institute of Policy Studies Chairman Professor Razeen Sally recently when he offered scathing remarks against the government’s management of the economy. Kuncinas too said that there are some major risks within the Sri Lankan economy.
“We are not here to say the skies are always going to be blue and there are no risks in the horizons,” he said. He noted that the banking and telecommunication sectors are overcrowded, while land restrictions, high power costs, external macroeconomic shocks and a dependence on the apparel sector with no diversity in exports also weighs the economy down.
However, he noted that the country has some of the best opportunities in the world in the logistics, transport and tourism sectors. Kuncinas added that the stock market should also be cultivated to not continue its boom and bust cycles in the recent past.