Sri Lanka Emerging Gateway To South Asia, Europe And Africa


Sri Lanka’s Minister of Development Strategies and International Trade Malik Samarawickrama this week encouraged investors to invest in Sri Lanka now and take advantage of this emerging gateway to South Asia, Europe and Africa.

“Sri Lanka is truly the new hub in the Indian Ocean – and we are ready to welcome you. We are keen to find international partners who can work with our private sector to build on our strengths, reach global markets, and bring in technology and know-how,” he said.

Sri Lanka offers investors a unique opportunity from which to grow business in the region. In Sri Lanka the investors will discover a stable macroeconomic climate, a fantastic geographic location, a pleasant living environment, business partners that value good business practices, and a highly trainable workforce, Samarawickrama told the Sri Lanka Investment and Business Conclave 2019 at the Shangri-La Hotel. Over 80 foreign delegates from 22 countries participated.

The Ministry officials and the Board of Investment (BOI) will support and facilitate the projects, with the able guidance from industry bodies like the Ceylon Chamber, and the support from embassies overseas.The Board of Investment now has several investor facilitation mechanisms and single window approvals mechanisms.

Samarawickrama said investors should not get distracted by domestic politics, and what they read in the news. “Sri Lanka has its fair share of challenges and political issues, just like any democracy and any emerging market. Two things remain certain and remain clear throughout – one: is the ample business opportunities that are available in Sri Lanka, and two: is the commitment of the Government to welcome foreign investors and help them succeed in the island.”

“We are probably one of the very few countries in the world that can claim this,” Samarawickrama said. Through Sri Lanka, investors will have access to a large market-of nearly 3.5 billion people on preferential terms -beyond our domestic market. “We already have preferential access to a market of 1 billion plus, through our FTA with India, which will soon be expanded to a comprehensive agreement covering services and investment. With our proximity to the fast-growing South Indian states, you will have easier access to these markets from Colombo than even from some parts of India itself.”

“We already have an FTA with Pakistan. We are negotiating a comprehensive FTA with China, and FTAs with Thailand and Bangladesh. We also have preferential access to the European Union through the GSP Plus trade concessions on over 6,000 tariff lines, and we have GSP access to the USA. Together, Sri Lanka’s opportunity is no longer just the 20 million domestic markets, but a massive 3.5 billion global market,” Samarawickrama said.

Sri Lanka has also signed a Free Trade Agreement with Singapore, which goes beyond goods, to include services, investment, e-commerce, government procurement, telecommunications, financial services, and economic cooperation.

“These are part of a comprehensive trade policy reform programme. The Government has removed protectionist para-tariffs on over 1,200 items with the rest slated for removal by 2020. We have introduced a trade remedies unit, a trade information portal, and soon an ‘Electronic Single Window’ that will link together dozens of state agencies dealing with international trade,” the Minister added.

The second aspect that makes the ‘Sri Lanka Opportunity’ compelling, is that Sri Lanka is perhaps the best place to take advantage of this growing market in the region with a fantastic geographic location, and an efficient port and airport with access to major air and sea routes.

Through the new Colombo International Financial City and Port City projects, Sri Lanka is creating a unique operating environment with special laws favourable for foreign business and living. In the most recent World Bank Doing Business Index, Sri Lanka jumped 11 places, in recognition of the reforms to cut the number of days and number of procedures to register new businesses and find and register property.

Samarawickrama said, “Our industrial energy tariffs are very competitive and will come down further over the next 3 years with the commissioning of new LNG power plants. Our water supply and air quality is among the cleanest in the region.We have a widespread road network, with several new expressways completed or nearing completion. Commercial land availability is being enhanced and made more transparent, with new projects to digitize land titling. As a foreign investor, you can obtain land on lease for up to 99 years.

Sri Lanka is also getting new industrial zones for foreign investments. Two have already been set up with easy access from the expressways. The Hambantota Logistics and Industrial Zone is also being developed.

The third aspect that makes the ‘Sri Lanka Opportunity’ compelling is that Sri Lanka has a track record in being successful in the harder parts of the value chain in several sectors.

“In garments, we manufacture lingerie, which is the most complex. We also manufacture high-performance athletic wear and sports shoe uppers. In rubber, we produce surgical and industrial gloves and industrial tyres. In electronics, we make impact sensors for airbags and seatbelts with a ‘one part per million’ quality standard. In tea and spices we manufacture flavour extracts for the pharmaceutical and cosmetics industries. In ship and boatbuilding, we construct complex cable-laying vessels and high-quality leisure crafts. And in IT, we are not a simple BPO destination; we provide innovative software solutions to global clients like eBay, Uber, Emirates, and the London Stock Exchange. Clearly, Sri Lanka isn’t your average South Asian country,” Samarawickrama added.

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