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SL could become mini Singapore

19 November 2013 10:00 am - 0     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

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Despite Sri Lanka having a rich human resource, the country is yet to harness its full potential because of its low presence in providing professional services to other international markets, according to a top Standard Chartered Bank (StanChart) executive, who operates in the Asian region.

Stan Chart Asia Vice Chairman Sir Thomas Harris in a brief interview with Mirror Business said Sri Lanka’s talent pool has the ability to provide business advisory services, banking and insurance services, accounting services and legal services to the businesses in other parts of the world.

“With your skill base, there is no reason why this country cannot become a mini Singapore for the sub-continent, particularly because India still restricts foreign investments into these sectors,” he said, on the sidelines of the Commonwealth Business Forum (CBF) held last week.

Among other areas, he emphasized the country’s ability to become an international arbitration centre for effective dispute resolution for businesses around the world, similar to Singapore and Dubai.

“You still have a competitive advantage against India, where there are still restrictions for foreign law firms to operate there,” he said.

Meanwhile, selling Sri Lanka as the 21st century investment destination at the CBF, External Affairs Minister Prof. G.L. Peiris told the potential investors that they do not have to bog down in courts in case of commercial disputes as Sri Lanka already has an extremely strong and effective commercial arbitration system.

Meanwhile, Sir Harris however expressed his dismay over Sri Lanka’s little or no effort in trade and services liberalization beyond the sub-continent.

“One thing I regret is that Sri Lanka is not yet taking a leading role in international negotiations over liberalization of trade and services which is going in Geneva.

It’s fine that you have free trade agreements (FTAs) with India and Pakistan. But the world is bigger than the sub-continent and I hope Sri Lanka will start to engage with much broader set of countries to reduce barriers to trade particularly in the services sector because you have a competitive advantage,” he stressed.

Last month, China, the third biggest services market, is reported to have expressed its plans to join in negotiations with Japan, the United States and Europe to liberalize the services trade. If trade rules are finalized, business transactions in financial, communications and other fields are expected to increase exponentially.

It was not long ago Central Bank Governor Ajith Nivard Cabraal pointed out the need for Sri Lanka to diversify its foreign inflows from areas such as tourism, port development, ICT/BPO, oil and gas exploration, education, health, sports and legal services, which are already gaining traction.

Meanwhile, Chartered Institute of Management Accounts (CImA) Sri Lanka Chairman Reyaz Mihular last week emphasized the need for our professional accountants to look beyond just business process outsourcing (BPO) to more advanced knowledge process outsourcing (KPO) as it can leverage the largest pool of accountants in Sri Lanka, second only to the United Kingdom.

Mihular said operating just as BPO destinations is not sustainable with the rising cost of living but KPOs could add more value through our accountants and thereby attract higher foreign earnings, which ultimately improving the economy as a whole.

Sri Lanka already has a strong ICT/BPO sector, which is poised to bring US $ 1.0 billion by end-2016 as foreign inflows. The sector earned US $ 315 million in 2012.
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