Sri Lanka bureaucracy said deterring investors

ECONOMYNEXT – The head of a Sri Lankan law firm that advises foreign investors has called for more transparency in decision-making and less administrative discretion, saying companies face delays caused by lower rungs of the bureaucracy.

A key aspect of building investor confidence was that the rule of law must be followed, said John Wilson, Partner at John Wilson Partners, among whose specialties are corporate law and foreign investment.

“Administrative discretion and action in Sri lanka can sometimes really not respect the law,” he told a business forum organized by the European Chamber of Commerce of Sri Lanka for a high level delegation from Austria.

“Please devote some time and attention to seeing how things work at micro level,” Wilson told the forum where Finance Minister Ravi Karunanayake, Deputy Foreign Affairs Minister Harsha De Silva and EranWickremaratne, Deputy Minister of State Enterprise Development were present.

Wilson said that although the new government was committed to speeding up investor approvals, “at micro level it can be a different story” and the message “has to percolate right down through the bureaucracy.”
Evaluations and guidelines in the investment approval process need to be more transparent and open manner and “mileposts respected,” Wilson said.

“If not, we have such an opportunity now, but if we don’t ensure across board implementation, ‘between the cup and the lip, there’s many a slip’.” 

Sri Lanka needs to be more organised in handling visa applications, particularly when dealing with multinationals, said Wilson whose firm advisors foreign investors on immigration law, visas and work permits.

“Companies can have a run around for months. Sometimes government ministries don’t even know who should be evaluating these applications.”
(COLOMBO, May 16 2016)

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