‘Sri Lanka to meet increased demand for products from developed economies’


Prime Minister Ranil Ranil Wickremesinghe flanked by Singapore's Trade and Economic Cooperation Minister I.Iswaran , Singapore's High Commissioner to Sri Lanka, Chandra Das, Sri Lanka's High Commissioner to Singapore, Nimal Weeraratne , Deputy High Commissioner O.L. Ameerajwad, international fund managers and Investors, during the launch of "Invest Sri Lanka" Forum, at the Four Seasons Hotel in Singapore, last Friday.

Zacki Jabbar

reporting from Singapore

The Sirisena-Wickremesinghe government was preparing to meet an increased demand for products, from developed economies that were growing faster, having recovered from recent slow downs, international fund managers and investors attending "Invest Sri Lanka" Forum in Singapore, were informed last Friday.

Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe told participants at the Investor Forum ,that steps had been taken to diversify Sri Lanka's exports and enhance its supply response .

Urging other Asian countries to do likewise, he said " According to the World Banks South Asia Economic Focus , advanced economies are recovering and seeing faster growth, that would increase the demand for South Asian products."

Wickremesinghe explained that Sri Lanka was moving from a growth model dependent on debt- fuelled public infrastructure spending, to an outward looking one , driven by public enterprise ,exports and foreign direct investment.

"Across the government, we are focussing on reforms that will catalyse growth and create better jobs for our people, so that we can become an upper middle income economy , with high social indicators" , he noted adding "we are the new growth story playing out in the Indian Ocean, that would forge ahead in partnership with countries such as Japan, India, China and Singapore."

The Prime Minister said that on going global economic power re-balancing had resulted in the Indian Ocean becoming a center of economic gravity, which in turn had enabled Sri Lanka to leverage on its strategic location, to become the hub of the Indian Ocean, by building on good relations with the key economies.

Addressing a full house that included Singapore's Trade and Economic Cooperation Minister I.Iswaran , Singapore's High Commissioner to Sri Lanka, Chandra Das , Sri Lanka's High Commissioner to Singapore, Nimal Weeraratne and Deputy High Commissioner O.L. Ameerajwad , Premier Wickremesinghe said that Sri Lanka had accepted the concept of a "Free and Open Indo-Pacific Policy and Maritime Order" proposed by Japan, played a crucial role in India's "Neighbourhood First Policy" and was also an important linchpin in China's "Belt and Road Initiative", particularly the maritime route connecting East Asia with Africa.

"As an island we are increasingly becoming a vital player in the region, enabling us to punch above our weight - a lesson we have learnt from Singapore, he observed." It also meant Sri Lanka , for Singaporeans had become a very advantageous hub to do business , live and invest in , as a springboard to South Asia and the Indian Ocean region and as a link between South East Asia and Asia."

The Prime Minister revealed that several policy measures aimed at incentivizing direct private investment from foreign and local sources, would be implemented in the coming months.

Enabling legislation, he said was in the preparatory stage and the gallery would be launched by mid, this year, exhibiting the government's commitment to ease of doing business.

"The time taken to register a new business would be reduced from six days to just one.Period of registering property halved from 51 to 26 days and procedures reduced from nine steps to two.An Electronic Single Window would also be introduced, linking dozens of state agencies dealing with international trade through a few clicks, Wickremesinghe outlined.

He noted that through the new Colombo International Financial City, the present Port City project, a unique business climate that was globally competitive had been created. "This new city will function as a special economic zone and adopt a conducive and transparent regulatory system.It will also provide an environment for foreign companies, like no other in the region."

These efforts, the Premier said were being complemented with comprehensive trade policy reforms that had seen the scrapping of protectionist para-tariffs on over 1,200 items, with the rest slated for removal this year and in 2019.

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