Sri Lanka is to host the 11th session of the Asia-Pacific Business Forum (APBF) organised by the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (US-ESCAP) with the main participation of Sri Lanka’s business promotion agency, the Board of Investment (BoI).The three-day event will be held from November 25 to 27, at the Bandaranaike Memorial International Conference Hall (BMICH) with the participation of at least 500 delegates - at least 60 percent expected to be foreign participants.
“We are going to hold this APBF for the first time ever in South Asia. We are expecting some high-level business leaders and heads of UN-affiliated organisations,” said UN-ESCAP Trade and Investment Division Director Dr. Ravi Ratnayake.According to Dr. Ratnayake, the APBF is the only UN-related business forum held for the Asia and Pacific regions.The theme of this time’s forum is ‘Enhancing regional business sustainability and investment’.
“What we want to have is Sri Lanka to attract more investments. Sri Lanka is doing well in terms of economic growth.Now to me, investments (foreign direct investments (FDIs)) are going to be a very important determinant of whether we can achieve that target or not,” he remarked.Meanwhile, Investment Promotion Minister Lakshman Yapa Abeywardena said at this rate, Sri Lanka is unable to attract the targeted FDIs of US $ 5 billion by end-2016, which is sine qua non to sustain the 8 percent gross domestic product (GDP) growth.
However, during the end of the first nine months of 2014, Sri Lanka managed to attract just above US $ 1 billion FDIs, while countries such as Vietnam attracts US $ 10 billion annually without much of an issue.“Looking at some of the Southeast Asian countries such as Vietnam, their FDIs as a share of GDP is higher than Sri Lanka. Similarly, there are other emerging economies which are doing better. So, (maybe) Sri Lanka needs to come to that level,” Dr. Ratnayake quipped.Explaining the objectives of the forum, Dr. Ratnayake said this creates a platform for the business leaders and the regulators among the 62 member countries to network and deliberate on the matters related to conducting businesses and crossborder investments among the member countries.
“We are thinking about South-South co-operation, which is becoming a very important source of investment especially because this facilitates the investment flows between the developing countries,” he further explained.An year ago, Sri Lanka hosted the Commonwealth Business Forum with close to 1,000 local and foreign participants, expecting at least US $ 2 billion FDIs to be materialized in 2014, but to no avail.
The APBF is organised in collaboration with the ESCAP Business Advisory Council, Economic Development Ministry, BoI, Federation of Chambers of Commerce and Industry of Sri Lanka, National Chamber of Commerce of Sri Lanka, International Chamber of Commerce of Sri Lanka and SAARC Chamber of Commerce and Industry.