Public-private partnerships seen as a basis for Sri Lanka's growth


By Hiran H.Senewiratne


"Sri Lanka should look forward to building infrastructure projects with government and private sector participation to bolster future economic growth. This is the model that is being adopted by many of the world's leading economies, US ambassador to Sri Lanka Atul Keshap said.

"Public-Private Partnerships (PPPs) help overcome the lack of public funds needed to build infrastructure, by mobilizing private sector finance and by helping improve project preparation, execution and management. Designing, structuring and implementing bankable such projects is a challenging and complex endeavour, Keshap told the 177th Annual General Meeting of the Ceylon Chamber of Commerce, which was held last Tuesday at the Cinnamon Grand,Colombo.

He said since Sri Lanka is staking a claim as the foremost logistical and transportation hub in the region, PPP programmes are the way forward. "Therefore, the government should enable private enterprises to operate in Special Economic Zones, free of restrictive regulations to generate business opportunities and foreign direct investment, he said.

"Special Economic Zones in Hambantota and Trincomalee could incorporate world class competitive practices and regulations that allow Sri Lankan and foreign companies to leverage the island's central location and human capital to create efficient enterprises, which can compete on par with other countries in the South and South East Asian regions, Keshap explained.

The ambassador said that young Sri Lankans would prefer to keep their talent and skills at home to invest in the future of the country in order to generate jobs and develop new wealth.

"By nurturing and retaining its top talent and developing labor standards that are competitive with other efficient markets in the Indo- Pacific region, Sri Lanka can ascend to the top tier of specialized IT services, advanced medial treatment and financial services, he said.

Ambassador Keshap said that sound and consistent economic policies are needed that are friendly towards workers and investors. "Because government-owned enterprises can help by ensuring a level playing field that will allow the private sector to flourish and inject needed tax receipts into government coffers, he added.

He also said the government's economic policy could facilitate the achievement of the vision of freeing the private sector to operate under efficient legal and regulatory regimes that match or exceed the policy environment of the most economically advanced countries in the Indo-Pacific region.

"The IMF's decision to provide Sri Lanka a US$ 1.5 billion loan gives the government a meaningful opportunity to undertake needed fiscal and economic reforms, he said.

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