Director International Operations, Oxigen Investments Plc., located in Bournmouth, Dorset, UK. Jay Perera, was here last week. We spoke to him. He said President Rajapakse’s declaration in Parliament that Sri Lanka invites the Diaspora to return was well received by all sections of the ethnic divide living abroad. Many who had lived in most European Union countries, and those living in the US, and Australia as well want to return. More so they are now in their senior years. They had made their contributions to their adopted land, and having acquired sound financial backing would now want to return. The President’s call was therefore timely. The guns have gone silent.( The LTTE defeated). Their return effectively facilitated would auger well for development of the land.
He said the Business for Peace Alliance (BPA), largely representing 25 Regional Chambers of Commerce, could be the catalyst to ensure influx of expertise and capital to realize the inescapable need that Regions be developed.
The big players all operate in and from Colombo. Colombo represents just a small section of the population. Broadly speaking the Western Province. But main stream numbers in per capita services are obtainable not from Colombo, but far flung reaches of the Provinces.
‘You are here to work with the BPA and carry the message to entrepreneurs, both local and foreign, that Sri Lanka is now the place to invest. Think you can make a difference?’
‘Yes’, Business people served by the BPA are relatively small with limited funds. It is to them that collaboration and influx of funds would make the difference. That being man power and land. Also at similar level of importance technology, net working, and allied areas of investment.’
‘What sort of capital base would these people bring in?’ ‘Those with financial backing of approximately 25 million Sterling, even 15 million sterling.’ ‘It does not seem these people are substantially (financially) sound players, agreed?’ ‘Agreed, but Sterling converted to Rupees would add up.’
What sort of enterprise would you concentrate on?’ he said mainly farming, plantation cash crops. What is most important is land allocation, and water. This the government would have to step in to support and facilitate investment.
Have you considered knots and snags you would have to face dealing with local ‘officials’? ‘Yes we have. For instance I have been dealing with the BOI here, and its efficiency is comparable with any other parallel organization found anywhere else’. I agree, further down the line there might be these knots and snags you talk of; naturally projections of such instances may cause some embarrassment but we could work round that chore and in the main concentrate on the paradigm that Sri Lanka is again an investors healthy option’.
Perera said their main focus would be the North and Eastern provinces. Those areas were in the dry zone. Given possibilities for short term cash crops essentials would include water in the P1 category. Also on line were forestry, and ethical food production. Compendium of the crop parcel could include pineapple, papaya, vegetables, and also dragon fruit. Other areas of importance included packaging, cold rooms, and most important that each entrepreneur would not operate in a remote controlled atmosphere, but concentrate on ‘produce and deliver’ ex site. Largely a functional enterprise in situ.
He said the Economic summit expected end this month would mainly be a fact finding mission. Entrepreneurs would be shown what they could expect and that post war Sri Lanka is an irreversible possibility of investment long or short term, and profit could be the result.
Profit after all is not a dirty word.