COLOMBO (EconomyNext) – Investors in Sri Lanka can now be assured of a level playing field “with no strings attached” or corruption where the rule of law is maintained, the new head of the island’s investment promotion agency said.
Upul Jayasuriya, chairman of the Board of Investment, said they were “burning midnight oil” to draft a new set of investment rules for the long term that would be announced soon.
“The least investors would expect in investing in Sri Lanka or India would be a level playing field and a decision-making process without corruption, in compliance with the rule of law is important,” he told the third Indo Ceylon Economic Dialogue forum.
It was organized by the Federation of Chambers of Commerce and Industry of Sri Lanka and PHD Chamber of Commerce and Industry, based in New Delhi, India.
“If you do not have confidence of the safety of your investment, your investment would mean nothing despite the protection offered by the Constitution.”
In the recent past companies were taken over by government despite the existence of investment protection agreements, he said referring to a controversial expropriation law used by the ousted Rajapaksa regime.
The expropriation bill was used to acquire companies that had immunity from being acquired, having been given a guarantee by BOI agreements in total disregard of the rule of law, Jayasuriya said.
“This shall not happen in the future. This is a guarantee and assurance that we can offer to investors. We offer you rule of law, a place free of corruption, a level playing field,” he added.
“The doors are open, no strings attached, please come.”
A two billion US dollar foreign direct investment target set for 2014 by the former Mahinda Rajapaksa regime was impractical, he said.
“This year we still not set these goals. Before we do that we must put our house in order. The house keeping is being done. We’re in the process of evolving a policy for the long term. In matters of capital investment if you set a target of one year it’s impractical.”
The BOI would soon come out with a new investment law.
“Until then we’re burning midnight oil on new regulations to be brought in,” Jayasuriya said.
In recent years the powers of the Board of Investment, under which operates over 2,000 factories, had got diluted and it has stopped being effective with decisions taken by officials other than in the BOI.
“That has been restored,” Jayasuriya said. “Decision-making authority was taken away from professionals and vested in the Cabinet of Minister under the former regime. That’s been frowned upon by the present government.”
There would be no more projects approved under the Strategic Development Projects law devised by the former regime which was widely criticized as not being transparent and opening the way for corruption.
“Decision-making powers will be centered in the BOI, no one else. That makes it easier with more clarity for investors,” Jayasuriya said.
“We reinventing the one-stop-shop concept and hope to put into action may be within the next few weeks.
“We will make available all necessary decision-makers present at the BOI so that would ease stress and other practical problems that were faced by investors.”