Development Strategies and International Trade Minister Malik Samarawickrama (left) and International Trade State Minister Sujeewa Senasinghe
Pic by Pradeep Pathirana
Int’l Trade Minister says new govt.’s settling in period is over
Says stability will attract investments, not tax concessions
Govt. conceptualizing new approaches to lure investments
By Shabiya Ali Ahlam
Confident that the Yahapalanaya has paved the way to bring nothing but fortune to the nation, a top Cabinet Minister said Sri Lanka aimed to attract foreign direct investments (FDIs) of US $ 5 billion within the next three years.
Acknowledging the national unity government’s “settling in” period has come to an end, Development Strategies and International Trade Minister Malik Samarawickrama said he was optimistic of the future as plans are afoot to help reach the rather ambitious goal.
“We are highly positive because we believe Sri Lanka is now ripe for investment. There are no issues now and people are looking at the nation in a very positive manner. However, this goal cannot be reached overnight,” he said.
Noting that tax concessions were no longer going to attract serious investors, he pointed out that consistent policies were the appealing element for them.
“They (international investors) are not looking at our tax systems or concession. They want stability. Now that we are a national government and are working together, we can lay down a policy and be certain it won’t change,” said Samarawickrama, while stressing a four- to five-year development programme was imperative.
Although certain that the country would attract “sufficient” investment this year, Samarawickrama refrained from giving a year-end target, stating that his ministry prefers to “talk after the work is done”.
Sri Lanka achieved a meagre US $ 750 million in FDIs in 2015, compared to peers such as Vietnam, which achieved over US $ 13 billion in FDIs.
The slowdown in FDIs was attributed to the change in the political landscape which led the majority of the investors to adopt a ‘wait and see’ approach.
The FDIs achieved last year put an end to the positive growth streak achieved since 2011, where for the first time FDIs crossed the US $ 1 billion mark reaching US $ 1.06 billion.
In the post-war scenario, the highest FDI value of US $ 1.68 billion was reached in 2014 and the second highest was in 2013, where the country’s FDI totalled US $ 1.39 billion. In 2012, US $ 1.33 billion FDIs entered the country.
Despite the setback last year, Minister Samarawickrama said the government would conceptualize innovative approaches to help realize more FDIs.
One such initiative is the formation of country-specific programmes promoting investment opportunities.
Starting with Mumbai, the ministry will facilitate roadshows in a number of countries including the USA, Japan, Korea, Pakistan and a few others, where Sri Lanka would be showcased in a manner best appealing to the relevant country.
In an effort to help break through bottlenecks, an inter-ministerial committee, headed by Premier Ranil Wickremesinghe, has been established. It would see the involvement of provincial Chief Ministers as well.
To allow investors to gain approvals in an expedited manner, the Board of Investment (BoI) aims to function as a ‘one-stop shop’.
Sharing the recent development in attracting FDIs, Samarawickrama said he was scheduled to meet the top officials of the Chinese government by end-March where their investment programmes for Sri Lanka across diverse industries would be presented.
“They are hoping to have economic zones and bring investors themselves. That is the way to go forward,” said Samarawickrama.