International Trade Minister Malik Samarawickrama called on foreign investors to partake in the national development agenda assuring them that the government was committed to transform the country’s economy. Providing a snapshot of the on-going efforts taken up to promote a sustained development at the ‘Invest in East 2016’ forum held recently,
Samarawickrama said: “Sri Lanka has considerable potential as a location for investment, as a hub for trade and as an attractive destination for tourism. We are determined to take advantage of this by creating the enabling environment for a business-friendly development model.”The minister also assured that the government was attaching the highest priority to rapid transformation of the Sri Lankan economy to create 1 million livelihoods.
Private sector being identified as the engine for growth and employment creation, it was emphasized that exports and foreign direct investment (FDI) will be key pillars of the new model for increasing growth, employment and income. “The ease of doing business, trade policy and trade facilitation are all receiving close attention as we seek to promote trade and investment more aggressively. Laws and regulations, as well as tariffs and para-tariffs are being reviewed to reduce transaction costs and address anti-export biases in the policy framework we inherited,”
the minister told the forum, which attracted over 300 international delegates. Going forward, he added the government will also focus on strengthening the macroeconomic fundamentals, particularly budgetary outcomes. Samarawickrama pitched Sri Lanka by highlighting its strategic location by drawing attention to the country being placed on the major East – West shipping lines, equi-distant from Europe and the Far East, and allowing easy access to the Middle Eastern and rising African markets. He noted that above all what made the nation an appealing investment destination was it being located a mere 20 miles from India,
which he said by common consent, was going to be the fastest growing large economy in the world. In order to take advantage of these changes in the overall landscape, such as Premier Narendra Modi’s ‘Make in India’ strategy, which have improved the prospects for capitalizing on Sri Lanka’s proximity to India, Samarawickrama reiterated that plans are afoot to deepen and widen bilateral relations with India through the Indo – Lanka Economic and Technology Co-operation Agreement (ETCA) which will be inked by mid this year. It was also shared that the country was looking to strengthen ties with the international community by deepening the FTA with Pakistan, negotiating the FTA with China, and exploring the possibility of signing other trade agreements including the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP).
With the kickoff of the Western Region Megapolis Project (WRMP) that will generate massive investment opportunities for foreign private investment, both FDI and PPPs, the minister pointed out there will be enormous opportunities for infrastructure development; housing and real estate building; financial and ICT enabled services; logistics; and high-tech manufacturing. Drawing attention to the emerging East that offers ample land and labour,
Samarawickrama said: “We encourage you to provide the capital, technology, markets and know-how to realize the potential of the province and uplift the lives of its people. The government of President Sirisena and Prime Minister Wickremesinghe is committed to reconciliation and balanced development of all regions of the country.” He added that empowering people with skills and uplifting them through economic opportunities will reinforce harmony and good relations among all the communities.