Govt confident of achieving high FDI | Sunday Observer

Govt confident of achieving high FDI

22 December, 2019

Sri Lanka will be made an investment-friendly destination in line with the five-year development strategy of the government which aims at achieving an all time high Foreign Direct Investment (FDI), a pre-requisite to develop the economy, State Minister for Investment Promotion, Keheliya Rambukwella told the Business Observer.

He said 2020 looks positive for FDIs and added that the ministry is confident of achieving a higher figure in the new year.

“The objective of setting up the ministry is to drive foreign and local investments which had dried up in the past due to lack of confidence in the country and in the administration. We want to restore confidence and stability in the economy which is paramount to attract investors and build business confidence,” the State Minister said adding that already around 15 leading business personalities and top corporates in the world have shown interest in the country with investments from two alone valued at over US$ 1.5 billion. However, he did not specify the foreign direct investment target this year but said certainly the country will surpass this year’s figure in 2020 with a clear and sound program to attract FDIs to the country.

The Board of Investments (BOI) officials of the former administration were aiming around US$ 1.5 billion in FDIs this year down from last year’s US$ 2.1 billion. According to statistics, foreign direct investments to the tune of around US$ 750 million had flown into the country during the first two quarters this year. Former officials of the apex body for investments pinned the blame on the 2018 October events and the April terrorist attacks on key sites in the country for the low FDIs drawn to the country this year.

The BOI set a target of attracting US$ 3 billion in FDIs this year.

However, the dearth of skilled workers and professionals has been a major setback to attract foreign direct investments to the country.

“The US$ 1.5 billion investments this year were results of negotiations of the present government. However, we don’t want to delay investments as in the past. The one-stop shop will be a reality soon. We have no other interest other than taking the country forward and strongly believe taking loans on whatever terms will only aggravate the burden on the people and the economy but if we could manage to bring substantial investments to the country that will be the day the country would be economically stable,” Rambukwella said. He said the president clearly spelt out in the political platform that Sri Lanka will be made the destination for investments giving top priority to national security and political stability in the country and added that the ministry is focused on working out a scheme and evolving a system where investors will feel that Sri Lanka has a comparative advantage over East Asian countries that will make a difference in the minds and thinking of investors.

The investment promotion ministry is looking at promoting investments in key areas such as road and highway building, power and energy sector and agri-businesses not through loans but by investments.

“We will not undermining the negative impacts of development on the environment which will receive priority in our program to boost the economy,” Rambukwella said.

On plans to expand the area of on all export processing zones in the country he said foremost lands allocated for investments in the zones must be fully and properly utilized and then look at expansion. Expansion is an extravaganza where as utilizing space is a sound move.

When asked about the stance of the new administration on the investments to be made on an oil refinery project in Hambantota the State Minister said the project in Hambantota had been a political drama. However, we will look into it and get an overview of the real picture since an oil refiner is important for the country.