Stable policies key for investments, Sri Lanka told

ECONOMYNEXT – The head of Malaysia’s biggest investment in Sri Lanka said foreign investors should wait no longer to invest in the island which his firm entered during war time but noted that stable policies were a key requirement.

Datuk Azzat Kamaludin, chairman of Dialog Axiata, Sri Lanka’s  dominant mobile phone operator, said the island needed foreign investment, having ended a 30-year ethnic war.

“Having come to Sri Lanka in the worst of times, we look forward to the best of times,” he said at the ‘Sri Lanka Investment and Business Conclave’ organised by the Ceylon Chamber of Commerce.

“When a foreign party invests it is necessarily for the long term and they may have to engage with different political powers and parties,” Kamaludin told the forum.

It drew over 125 potential investors from 27 countries along with 130 Sri Lankan business executives seeking foreign business partnerships.

“To those watching and waiting to invest in Sri Lanka, I say wait not,” Kamaludin said.

While being concerned about peace, stability and the business climate, an investor has to accept that conditions cannot be exactly as it wants it to be, he noted. 

Dialog, then known as Telekom Malaysia, entered Sri Lanka in 1993 during the second phase of the war when then-president Ranasinghe Premadasa was assassinated by a suicide bomber.

The company remained as the war intensified and was listed in 2005 when the fourth and final phase of the war began.

“Any other foreign investor would have shied away or waited for the war to be over,” Kamaludin said. “But Telekom Malaysia did not.”

This was because of the full support of the government and regulators.

Foreign investors need to be assured that governments have industry polices that were clear and predictable as much as possible and fairly applied.

They want to be assured that changes to policies and taxes are done with due notice and not retrospectively, said Kamaludin who is also senior independent non-executive director of Malaysia’s Axiata group.