Sri Lanka policymakers study security impacts of foreign projects

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lankan government officials and policymakers have begun study the security implications of large foreign direct investment (FDI) projects and presence of foreign workers, according to a state national security think tank.

The Institute of National Security Studies Sri Lanka (INSSSL) said inter-agency cooperation on guidelines for approving FDI in the country was mooted at a closed-door policy discussion it held at the defence ministry last week.

There was consensus that the government should encourage FDI while “exercising caution” when entering into agreements with foreign investors at its first “Threat Lens” discussion involving high level government officials, scholars and policy makers, a statement said.

The forum considered large scale foreign projects and security implications in South Asia.

“This is especially important as large scale foreign projects are becoming increasingly important and play a pivotal role in the Sri Lankan economy,” the INSSSL said.

“While being a catalyst for the nation’s economic development and stability, the origin and objectives of certain foreign investments carry with them risks and threats,” it said.

“Sri Lanka therefore requires sound official supervision to persuade private investors to take national security considerations into account when making business decisions,” the statement said.

“Consequently, the increase in large scale foreign projects have caused a major debate between the “freedom of investment” and concerns of national security.”

Director General INSSSL Asanga Abeyagoonasekera said that so far there has been no study on the impact large scale strategic projects could have on national security.

“A foresight analysis should be conducted in consideration of the long-term security threats to a nation,” he said.





INSSSL analyst Ranuk Mendis provided examples of several models used in other nations such as China when deciding on strategic foreign projects where security clearance is required.

It was suggested that that INSSSL could provide input for such projects in the future.

There was also concern about foreign workers who arrive in the guise of tourists and integrate themselves into numerous industries both in urban and rural areas, the statement said.

“This could create situations of social conflict,” it noted.

Another issue highlighted was international agencies registering persons as ‘asylum seekers’ whose whereabouts are not monitored.

With undocumented people entering Sri Lanka, the country could even be used as a training hub for terrorism, the institute said.
(COLOMBO, Feb 14, 2017)

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