UNP: FDIs down to USD 1.2 bn

Non beneficial Casino projects cannot plug the problem


By Zacki Jabbar

Foreign Direct Investments had dropped to a woefully low USD 1.2 billion which was less than two percent of Sri Lanka’s GDP, the UNP said yesterday.

Financial Analyst and UNP MP Eran Wickremeratne told The Island that the Rajapaksa government had got its wires crossed and was trying to plug the problem of FDI fast drying up by encouraging investments such as in Casino on non-beneficial terms, through the proposed strategic development projects.

Investments that serve only the super rich and made foreigners richer should not be encouraged and be opposed by all responsible political parties, he pointed out. "The government is under severe criticism because Foreign Direct Investment is just USD 1.2 billion. It is looking for the easy way out by giving casinos huge tax concessions through the Strategic Development Projects Act."

Wickremeratne said that the latest theory being bandied about by leading ministers was that the establishment of state-of-the art casinos was essential if the government was to achieve its projected growth rate of seven percent growth for this year. But, it did not make sense when such businesses were offered tax benefits not found in any other part of the world.

In every country, including Singapore, the casino trade is linked to red-light districts where, despite the law, prostitution and drugs flourish. Therefore, those who argue that the casino trade would bring in revenue must also be expecting Sri Lanka to have a red light district like in western capitals with scant regard for Sri Lankan culture, MP Wickremaratne noted.

The MP said that Macau, an island of 29.9 sq. km. in extent was now the world’s capital for gambling. It had 35 casinos, 56 sauna sex centers and 21 night clubs. In addition there are 13,000 gambling addicts. While the gambling and sex industries were booming, the living standards of the local population were deteriorating, the MPā€ˆsaid.

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