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Tuesday February 27th, 2024

President Rajapaksa’s speech at Sri Lanka Investment Forum 2021 – full text

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka President Gotabaya Rajapaksa invited investors invest in Colombo Port City and a range of sectors from energy, information to agro-industries.

The full text is reproduced below”

It gives me great pleasure to address you at the inaugural session of the Sri Lanka Investment Forum 2021.

This event takes a holistic view of the many and varied investment opportunities Sri Lanka offers across all sectors of its economy.

It brings together the Board of Investment, Colombo Stock Exchange and the Ceylon Chamber of Commerce, alongside key policymakers, entrepreneurs, and business leaders. This will encourage robust dialogue and information sharing about our investment environment, and it will highlight opportunities for direct investments as well as opportunities in capital markets and debt markets.

This investment forum comes at an important time for Sri Lanka.

My Government has ambitious plans to unleash a decade of transformational and rapid economic growth to double our national output from its current level to 8,000 dollars GDP per capita by 2030.

Our unique geostrategic position, political stability, robust institutions and social infrastructure, educated and capable workforce, and high quality of life are some of Sri Lanka’s current strengths. We will leverage on these to set the platform for our growth target.

In addition, significant improvements to our infrastructure are continually being made. These include increasing power generation from renewable sources, improving connectivity through upgrading of road and rail networks, and further expansion and improvements to our ports that will all facilitate our development drive.

We are deeply committed to maintaining policy stability and consistency within a stable macroeconomic environment. Our legal and regulatory frameworks are being refined to ensure greater responsiveness, transparency, and security for investors. Unnecessary bureaucratic red tape is being removed and procedures are being streamlined to ensure greater ease of doing business.

As President of Sri Lanka, I am determined to see these changes through and to further improve our already welcoming environment for investment.

There are significant opportunities across many economic sectors in Sri Lanka that can provide tremendous returns to foreign and local investors alike. With its geostrategic location only a few hours away by air from major global hubs, Sri Lanka is one of the best-connected nations in all of South Asia. The commercial capital, Colombo, is one of the most attractive and liveable cities in the region.

The many opportunities this city affords will soon be greatly enhanced by the Colombo Port City, a new cityscape that will feature world class residential, commercial, social and entertainment facilities.

Our vision is to make the Port City a key service hub for one of the fastest growing regions in the world. Its residents will have all the facilities they need to do productive work, while enjoying a very high quality of life in a vibrant tropical beachside environment that fuses the best of both old and new.

Special legislation has already been passed to ensure special incentives and exemptions for businesses that can have a broad economic impact. We encourage business leaders from all nations to make full use of the unique strengths and many opportunities that the Port City affords by investing here.

For centuries, Sri Lanka has been a hub that connected the East and the West. With its world class port infrastructure in Colombo and in Hambantota, the country is capable of providing services even to the largest container ships that traverse the busy Indian Ocean. The country is therefore well positioned to be a transhipment and logistics hub for the region, and we strongly encourage investments in this area.

Legacy legislation and regulations that impede such investments are in the process of being revisited and revised to facilitate this. With its very fertile environment and deep history of cultivation, Sri Lanka has a rich agrarian heritage spanning thousands of years.

With climate change becoming an increasing threat to food security the world over, we seek to combine this rich heritage with new technological advances to dramatically and sustainably enhance our agricultural output.

My Government has taken a strong policy stance in support of healthy, organic agriculture. I am confident that in the future, Sri Lanka can supply high quality agricultural produce to health conscious, demanding consumers in the region. Many opportunities for investment will be created in this context.

Given our national commitment to further enhancing our forest cover, the productivity of our agriculture base must improve without further increasing land use.

We therefore welcome investments into new technologies and farming practices that can increase yields in organic, healthy, and sustainable ways. We also seek improvements to our animal husbandry and fisheries sectors that can sustainably increase their productivity.

Investments into value adding businesses that can increase the export potential of our agricultural produce as well as our traditional export crops such as tea, rubber, and coconut are strongly encouraged.

As Sri Lanka seeks to expand its industrial base, one of the most significant requirements will be increased power generation. My Government is committed to reducing the use of fossil fuels and ensuring that clean, renewable sources of energy contribute 70% of our national power requirements by 2030.

This commitment creates opportunities for large scale power projects that can sustainably augment our power supply and set the platform for further industrialisation and economic growth.

We therefore invite investments into solar power projects with energy storage solutions that can support the stability of the national grid, as well as wind power projects. Sri Lanka has abundant sources of many raw materials that are used in several high-tech industries. We are keen to encourage investments into manufacturing industries that will add value to these resources and set the country on the path towards becoming a manufacturer of electronic components for the global market in the future.

The Information Technology sector in Sri Lanka is especially robust. We have several companies that have made their mark internationally, and high-quality educational institutions produce many skilled workers in this field each year.

Our ongoing educational reforms will further enhance the quality and size of our IT workforce in the future. The Government is taking other proactive steps in addition to such talent development. This includes building new infrastructure including IT parks and enacting supportive policy mechanisms including a zero-tax policy for tech companies headquartered in Sri Lanka.

Sri Lanka’s geographic proximity to major undersea cables that transmit millions of terabytes of data make it an attractive destination for data centres and other operations that serve the information requirements of the region.

This potential is being further strengthened with new legislation on personal data protection that is being formulated to bring the country’s legal and regulatory environment in line with global standards.

Sri Lanka has long been favoured as a destination for tourists from all over the world. Even though it has been severely impacted by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, Sri Lanka is seeking to revitalize its vibrant tourism industry to take advantage of the likely post-pandemic travel boom.

Investments are therefore welcome into hotels, resorts, entertainment facilities, and experiential tourism projects that will attract high spending tourists to the country. With its robust public healthcare system augmented by globally accredited private hospitals and world class, highly qualified, and experienced medical professionals, Sri Lanka is also well placed to benefit from the growing global medical tourism industry.

Investments into medical tourism projects are therefore encouraged, as are wellness tourism projects that will leverage our rich heritage of mindfulness, holistic healthcare, and the Ayurveda tradition.
With its many attractions, sound infrastructure, high quality of life, and its dynamic, educated and intelligent youth, Sri Lanka can also be a viable destination for leading universities to set up campuses that attract students from around the region.

My Government is prepared to proactively support such investments, just as it will truly transformative investments into the many other sectors I have discussed in this address.

During the course of these three days, participants at this event will be able to study these and the many other opportunities Sri Lanka affords in detail.

Equally importantly, you will be able to connect directly with policymakers at the highest level, as well as technical experts, project owners, and potential partners who can support your investment ambitions in Sri Lanka.

The Government of Sri Lanka is proactive and pro-business. We will look very favourably upon investments that can have a transformative impact on our economy as well as our national profile, and we will do our utmost to create an enabling environment for the success of such investments.

We now stand on the cusp of a national transformation that can not only uplift Sri Lanka but have positive impacts on the entire region while creating tremendous value for investors across multiple sectors and through diverse instruments.

I invite you to join us on this transformational journey by investing in Sri Lanka.”

Thank you.

Ends.

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Sri Lanka parliamentary committee says electricity tariffs should be reduced by 20 pct

ECONOMYNEXT — A parliamentary Sectoral Oversight Committee on Alleviating the Impact of the Economic Crisis has recommended to the Public Utilities Commission of Sri Lanka (PUCSL) that electricity tariffs be reduced by at least 20 percent.

A statement from parliament said on Monday February 26 that, following an analytical review of the figures presented by the Electricity Board, Public Utilities Commission, etc. and taking into consideration all other factors affecting the price of electricity, including considering the opinion given by experts that the existing electricity price can be reduced by about 33%, price of electricity should be reduced by at least 20% in the year 2024 so that the state-run Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB) will not suffer any loss.

PUCSL officials have informed the Committee that by the end of this month, they can submit the necessary recommendations to reduce the electricity bill, according to the statement.

The matter was taken up for discussion when the committee, chaired by MP Gamini Waleboda, met in the Parliament on February 22.

Officials from the Ministry of Industry, Ministry of Finance, Central Bank of Sri Lanka, Public Utilities Commission, Industry Development Board, Enterprise Development Authority, Department of Population and Statistics, Department of Inland Revenue and from government institutions including the Micro, Small and Medium Scale Industries Board and a group of industrialists had also been called for the meeting.

“The Committee gave several directives to the relevant institutions and officials to identify the micro, small and medium scale industries that are directly affected by the economic crisis and to activate the local economy and increase the foreign exchange earnings by reviving the industry sector.

“The Committee pointed out that due to the increase in electricity bills, the number of electricity connection cuts reported across the island has exceeded one million. It was also emphasised that in order to alleviate the pressure on the industry and the society, it should be arranged to provide electricity connections again by charging only 50 percent of the outstanding charges at the initial stage with the concessional basis of payment of outstanding electricity charges on installment basis,” the statement said.

The committee was also of the view to allow the customer to pay the connection fee in installments so as to avoid discouraging new entrepreneurs to start micro, small and financial industries due to high charges for getting fixed electricity connection and instructed to review the new connection fee and work to reduce it as much as possible.

The committee chair has instructed the PUCSL to conduct an audit on the electricity consumption in the public sector as an approach to ensure energy security.

“The Committee recommended to the Ministry of Finance and the Central Bank to start a loan scheme at subsidised interest for the purchase of solar panel systems with a view to promoting solar energy as a source of energy supply to industries. The Ministry of Finance expressed its agreement to provide refinancing facilities subject to a maximum as per the proposal made by the Committee to implement a loan scheme targeting micro, small and medium scale industrialists under subsidized interest rates.

The committee has also recommended that raw materials that must be imported from abroad and impose tax concessions on such raw materials be identified to ensure the supply of raw materials required for the smooth running of micro, small and medium scale industries. Copper, lead, aluminum and other industrial scraps used as raw materials in various domestic industries currently being sold by the CEB to external buyers and other entities should also be issued to micro, small and medium scale industrialists recommended by the Ministry of Industry and the Industrial Development Board, the committee has recommended.

The definition used by the Department of Population and Statistics for micro, small and medium industries and the definition used by other institutions such as the Industrial Development Board and the Central Bank for those industries are different from each other, which is an obstacle in making policy decisions, the committee had noted, directing the Department of Population and Statistics to support to the policymakers by releasing statistical data based on a common definition.

“The committee also recommended that the Credit Information Bureau should take prompt action to remove their credit information from the blacklists so as to facilitate access to credit facilities for micro, small and medium scale industries facing financial crisis to activate their balance sheets and to review all existing laws and procedures for registration of micro, small and medium scale industries as well as to obtain licenses and introduce a simple system.

“The committee informed all the parties to establish a steering Committee headed by the Ministry of Industry to implement the recommendations given by the Committee and to report its progress within a week,” the statement said. (Colombo/Feb27/2024)

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Sri Lanka sets up fund to help children of Gaza

The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East is mandated to provide education, health, relief and social services, and emergency assistance to refugees. (Pic courtesy UNWRA)

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s cabinet of ministers have approved a proposal by President Ranil Wickremesinghe to set up a fund to help children caught in the war in Gaza, a statement said.

The government will contribute a million US dollars and use funds allocated by state agencies for Ifthar celebrations.

Public contributions are also called.

The Presidential Secretariat is requesting public donations citizens for the “Children of Gaza Fund” to be contributed to account number 7040016 at Bank of Ceylon (7010), Taprobane Branch (747) by 11th April.

Deposit receipts should to be forwarded to 0779730396 via WhatsApp. (Colombo/Feb27/2024)

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Top US official calls for inclusive reforms, deeper defence ties with Sri Lanka

ECONOMYNEXT — United States Deputy Secretary of State for Management and Resources Richard Verma in discussions with Sri Lanka officials had called for inclusive reforms and stronger human rights and also discussed deeper defence and maritime cooperation.

The United States remains committed to the economic growth and prosperity of Sri Lanka, statement from the US Embassy in Colombo quoted the official as telling government, civil society and economic leaders during his February 23-24 visit to Sri Lanka.

“Verma met with President Ranil Wickremesinghe and Foreign Minister Ali Sabry to discuss progress on Sri Lanka’s IMF program, including inclusive economic and governance reforms aimed at keeping Sri Lanka on the path to sustainable economic growth.  Deputy Secretary Verma stressed the vital need to protect human rights and fundamental freedoms, including freedom of expression. They also explored opportunities to deepen defence and maritime cooperation between the United States and Sri Lanka, including strengthening the Sri Lanka Navy’s capabilities to safeguard national security and promote a more stable Indo-Pacific region,” the statement said.

 On February 23, aboard the SLNS Vijayabahu, one of three former U.S. Coast Guard cutters transferred by the United States to Sri Lanka, Deputy Secretary Verma said: “I am pleased to announce that the Department of State has notified Congress of our intent to transfer a fourth medium endurance cutter to Sri Lanka.  The Department obligated $9 million in Foreign Military Financing to support this effort.  We look forward to offering the cutter, pending the completion of Congress’ notification period.  If completed, this transfer would further strengthen defense cooperation between the United States and Sri Lanka.  The ship would increase Sri Lanka’s ability to patrol its Exclusive Economic Zone, monitor its search and rescue area, and provide additional security for ships from all nations that transit the busy sea lanes of the Indian Ocean.” 

 Participating in the announcement at Colombo Port were Sri Lanka State Minister of Defense Premitha Bandara Tennakoon, Commander of the Sri Lanka Navy Vice Admiral Priyantha Perera, and U.S. Ambassador to Sri Lanka Julie Chung, who remarked, according to the statement: “The United States has previously transferred three cutters to the Sri Lankan Navy, which deploys these ships for maritime operations and law enforcement missions, countering human trafficking and drug trafficking, while supporting humanitarian assistance and disaster response efforts. The eventual transfer of a fourth vessel would be just one more point in a long history of cooperation between Sri Lanka and the United States in preserving a free and open Indo-Pacific region.” 

Verma also visited the site of the West Container Terminal (WCT), a deepwater shipping container terminal in the Port of Colombo. The WCT, currently being constructed by Colombo West International Terminal (CWIT) Private Limited with 553 million US dollars in financing from the U.S. International Development Finance Corporation, will provide critical infrastructure for the South Asian region, the embassy said.

“Operating near capacity since 2021, the Port of Colombo’s new addition will be the port’s deepest terminal and aims to boost Colombo’s shipping capacity, expanding its role as a premiere logistics hub connecting major routes and markets, boosting prosperity for Sri Lanka without adding to its sovereign debt,” it said. (Colombo/Feb27/2024)

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