ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s president has pointed out the need to develop regional tourism markets and create a unified regional tourism bloc, using selective integration to forego country-specific geopolitical fissures.
“We can create our own economic hub, a regional economy. We may not have one big South Asian economic bloc, and the geopolitics are such that I don’t think we are all going to work together. But we can make it happen,” Ranil Wickremesinghe said at the ‘YPO Colombo Experience: Rediscover the Pearl’ held last weekend.
He said that the economic shift towards Asia calls for South Asian nations to work together to harness the growing economic power in the region, through an integrated ecosystem that could be beneficial for industrialization and tourism.
He urged Sri Lankan entrepreneurs who have in the past invested in operations in Bangladesh and Maldives to invest in other countries within the region, including India.
“We are already one of the largest investors in Bangladesh. Go into Myanmar, Cambodia, Laos, East Africa, West Africa,” he invited entrepreneurs and investors.
The president pointed out potential tourism hotspots accessible from Sri Lanka’s east coast.
“Bay of Bengal has a cruise area that is larger than the Caribbean. Sri Lanka’s east coast, which is not opened up yet, can benefit from this. India has some very good spots along the east coast”.
“Bangladesh’s Cox’s Bazar hasn’t been opened up, the whole of Andaman Islands. The beaches in Myanmar are beautiful.
“If most of the Indians and Chinese decide to take a cruise then we don’t need to bring down Europeans.”
Sri Lanka signed a free trade agreement with Singapore, and is looking to sign one with Thailand.
“We will negotiate with Malaysia and Indonesia, and then we’ll go into Vietnam. We’ll also have a similar arrangement with Bangladesh so it covers the whole area and then Pakistan. We can create this regional economy,” he said.
He said that Sri Lanka and other South Asian nations should venture into Pakistan and Iran, the maritime corridor into Central Asia.
“Iran is important. Both Pakistan and Iran which preside over the Makran coast, are the route that can lead into Central Asia.”
Sri Lanka has also applied to join the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), and the pursuit of comprehensive economic partnerships with India and Bangladesh. (Colombo/Nov21/2023)