Sunday Observer Online


Sunday, 26 July 2015





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‘FDIs will drive future economic growth’

Sri Lanka’s business environment is driven by politics, and it needs to change regardless of the people who sit in Government.

Our future Government hopes to put in place a framework to ensure that confidence will return and business will operate without political interference, Highways, Higher Education and Investment Promotion Deputy Minister Eran Wickramaratne told Sunday Observer Business.

Wickramaratne said that future economic growth will be driven by foreign direct investment (FDI).Our future Government hopes to drive the economy forward through foreign direct investment and local investment unlike the previous regime’s policy of public investment and foreign debt.

Foreign investors did not invest in Sri Lanka in the recent past because the ousted regime demanded bribes and commissions to approve investments, he said.Wickramaratne said several foreign investment projects will be launched, including automobile, computer and agricultural equipment factories in Sri Lanka. Investments of this nature could produce a large number of job opportunities.

“Sri Lanka has many skilled people in the areas of technology and was open to other areas of investment as well.

The government will continue some of the projects launched by the previous regime, especially roads and highways, and the only difference will be that our government will do business in a transparent manner,” the Deputy Minister said.

“Our government looks forward to ensuring sustainable development and industrialisation. Major changes such as strengthening the rule of law, creating a healthy balance between the executive and parliament and an independent judiciary will be priorities,” Wickremeratne said.

The country’s foreign policy has been rebalanced and its strength as a logistical hub connecting the rest of the world, has been re-established.

Wickremeratne said that the government held several rounds of discussions with a number of foreign companies to set up a factory to make vehicles for export. Further discussions will be held after the election with foreign companies to set up factories. Foreign investors are keen to invest because the post January government assured them fair and transparent investment opportunities, he said.

A leading German automobile manufacturer, Volkswagen has again renewed its call to open a manufacturing plant in the Kurunegala district and its products will be exported to South Asian and African countries. The company hopes to manufacture vans and its popular Jetta and Passat vehicles.

After the election victory the Government hopes to increase investments several-fold to create many job opportunities.

Foreign investors will be given special concessions. We look forward to bring in investments which cause no damage to the indigenous culture, beliefs and traditions. “We will always ensure that the concessions given to foreign investors will create a healthy environment for local industries,” he added

Local businessmen will have easy access to finance. There should be a proper development-banking system by which small industries at regional level could benefit. We also hope to give technical expertise and proper services to people who are keen on investing in medium or small industries.

Our future Government will provide services and advice to small and medium enterprises too. Priority will be given to financial support and finding a market for their products.

The late President R. Premadasa took industry to the villages by setting up 200 garment factories. The UNP was the pioneer in providing employment opportunities to the poor in the rural areas.“Apart from the Free Trade Zones set up in different parts of the country during the UNP regime, we hope to set up special industries in rural areas for educated youth. We are in the process of identifying suitable areas,” Wickremaratne said.

The country began to move from agriculture to industry since late President J.R. Jayawardena’s era. At present the revenue from industrial exports has dropped.“When the UNP Government gave up power in 1994, exports as a percentage of the GDP was 32 percent and today it has come down to 16 percent. This is not a healthy feature. Our manufacturing sector should be developed. It is time to review as to why Sri Lanka has become less competitive in the manufacturing sector compared to other countries in the region,” the Deputy Minister said.




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