Ease of doing business to be ensured

Laws will be simplified to attract investments - PM



Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe addressing the 3rd South Asian Diaspora Convention at the Raffles City Conference Centre in Singapore on Monday

by Zacki Jabbar in Singapore

Sri Lanka would ensure ease of doing business to encourage more foreign investments says Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe.

Delivering the keynote address at 3rd South Asian Diaspora Convention at the Raffles City Conference Center, on Monday,Wickremesinghe said that Sri Lanka which had been ranked the highest in economic freedom among South Asian countries would reform its tax laws by simplifying procedures , introduce incentives for investments including a new Foreign Exchange Act to remove restrictions on remittances abroad.

Air , land and sea transport and energy and telecommunications sectors would be overhauled and the country developed into a key sector for finance , logistics and business , he announced adding that both foreign and local investments would be promoted.

The Prime Minister also outlined infrastructure development projects in the pipeline such as creation of the Kandy –Colombo – Hambantota corridor ,building more air and sea ports and expansion of the Katunayake International Airport.

Oil refinery and power generation projects had attracted Chinese investments as well, he said.

Following bilateral talks between Premier Wickremesinghe and Singaporean President Tony Tan Keng Yam and Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong also on Monday the two sides inked five MoU's which included the launch of negotiations for a Free Trade Agreement.

The 3rd South Asian Diaspora Convention hosted by the Institute of South Asia, National University of Singapore on the theme "Growth Through Interaction : The South Asian Opportunity", brought together around 1000 distinguished guests and more than 50 of the regions leading policy makers , business leaders , academics and civil society leaders. The speakers discussed and debated critical topics in business , economy and policy affecting the regions future and its role in global geopolitics in the 21st century.

Wickremesinghe explained Sri Lanka’s growth model and investment priorities and shared his aspirations on partnerships with Singapore and South Asia to fulfill Sri Lanka’s "Wonder of Asia" vision. He also spoke about the challenges which his country faced in the pursuit of this vision, and outlined how it may require innovative regional solutions beyond the nation.

At the Plenary Sessions Foreign Minister Managala Samaraweera addressed the gathering on "Regional Integration" while Development Strategies and International Trade Minister Malik Samarawickrama spoke on "Investing in Infrastructure" . Former Chief Justice Shirani Bandaranaike discussed the intricacies pertaining to "Law and Business in South Asia."

Issues concerning the South Asian diaspora communities and how citizenship was being redefined by trans-nationalist movements, "Geopolitics of South Asia" , "Captains of Industry: Catalyst for Change", "Partnership in Education" , "Entrepreneurship and Start-Ups" and "India-China Business Dialogue", were among the key topics that were debated.

According to the World Bank, South Asia is the fastest growing region in the world. Though India has a substantial share in it , other nations are also seeing significant GDP growth.

The two day confab discussed critical aspects relating to the geo-economic and geo-political challenges affecting South Asia and the world such as the key engines of growth in South Asia at a time of global economic slowdown, the extent to which its growth is sustainable and the opportunities available for both global corporates and small and medium enterprises to benefit,how the regions’ economies could further open up to international trade, investment and finance and improve its prospects for the acquisition of modern technology and how a more integrated and connected South Asia could expand the capacity of individual economies in the region.

Questions such as South Asia’s future, and the world’s as well and how China’s growing presence in the region would impact on business and trade were also raised.

Describing Sri Lanka as the pivotal point for a global grand strategy of major powers like the United States, China and India the Convention observed that the centrality of Sri Lanka in the Indian Ocean was also imperative for its growth and investments."It lies only a few nautical miles away from the East-West shipping route which enjoys immense ship traffic. An estimated 60,000 ships pass the country every year, carrying two-thirds of the world's oil and half of all container shipments. Sri Lanka's geography gives it an advantage disproportionate to its size."

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