Economic Development Minister Basil Rajapaksa met high level business delegations led by the French Ambassador and the British High Commissioner in Sri Lanka respectively with a view to promoting investments from France and the United Kingdom.
Addressing the business community that included some of the leading enterprises in the fields of insurance, garments, tourism and pharmaceuticals on Monday (19) the Minister urged the entrepreneurs to make use of the twin factors of durable peace and political stability in Sri Lanka which is becoming a frontier in the South Asian region to attract foreign direct investments.
He spoke of the 8% economic growth rate maintained by Sri Lanka and also the credible performance of the Sri Lankan stock market. Such impressive indicators have led to Sri Lanka’s rating being upgraded by the reputed credit rating agencies.
The French Ambassador Christine Robichon at the very outset stated that a number of French companies have already established themselves in Sri Lanka referring to the high profiled business delegation that visited Sri Lanka on a business exploration mission recently.
The French companies have expressed the desire to engage with the Sri Lanka Government in infrastructure (construction of bridges), energy, tourism sectors and the garment industry.
British High Commissioner John Rankin elaborated on the historical and longstanding partnership with Sri Lanka and assured their continued support in realising the economic development targets set by Sri Lanka for the empowerment of her people.
These meetings were the first of a series of interactions that the Minister of Economic Development is expected to hold with the existing foreign investors of Sri Lanka in order to iron out any trade and investments issues that needed to be sorted out to further enhance their commercial operations in Sri Lanka.
In responding to several questions pertaining to investment facilitation, the Minister reiterated that the Board of Investment of Sri Lanka is being reorganised to become a fully operational one – stop shop. The operational work of the Department of Customs has been streamlined in introducing the electronic submission of Customs documents.
Noting the benefits for potential investors, the Minister emphasised the major infrastructure drive covering sea ports, airports, roads, electricity and rail transport undertaken in Sri Lanka with Foreign assistance and foreign direct investment to make Sri Lanka a more conducive investment location.
Responding to an inquiry raised by a major pharmaceutical group manager who was present explaining the growth possibilities in the Pharmaceutical sector, the Minister explained that a US$ 400 m market was available for investors in Sri Lanka as according to the current statistics Sri Lanka was importing 85% of its pharmaceutical needs annually.
Explaining the procedure for award of Government contracts, the Minister elaborated that the country maintained a very high degree of transparency in all related procedures. He also spoke of the online visa system that would be adopted shortly by the immigration authorities in attracting more tourists to the country. The Minister made a request to both France and the UK to further promote Sri Lanka as an attractive tourist destination considering that they were the existing major markets for Sri Lanka tourism industry.
The Minister invited the entrepreneurs to take advantage of the vast opportunities afforded to them in Sri Lanka, particularly with the eastern and northern rebuilding and reconstruction drive.
He further stated that many business opportunities are opened for France and the United Kingdom entrepreneurs for target sectors such as textile, garments, food, infrastructure, processing rubber based products agricultural products, electronic, automobile, pharmaceuticals including eMedicine Information Technology, Business Process outsourcing and tourism.
While thanking the diplomatic officials and the investors for their continued support, the Minster urged the investors to make use of the mutually advantages opportunities available in Sri Lanka in creating a win-win situation.
Secretary to the Ministry of Economic Development Dr. P. B. Jayasundera was also associated at the meeting together with Victor Maurin, Deputy Head – the Trade Commission, French Trade Commission of Colombo, Embassy of France in Sri Lanka and the Maldives and Jean Louis Pali, Economic and Commercial Councillor of French Trade Commission, Nadeesha Epasinghe, Deputy Head, Trade and Investment of the British Commission, UK and French Business Communities operating in Sri Lanka, the Ministry of Economic Development, BOI, Sri Lanka Customs, Finance Ministry, Labour Ministry Officials.