President Ranil Wickremesinghe outlined his vision for transforming the economic landscape of the region when he delivered the keynote address at the ‘YPO Colombo Experience: Rediscover the Pearl’ conference yesterday at the Shangri-La Colombo.
President Wickremesinghe who held discussions with the new Maldivian President Dr. Mohamed Muizzu on Friday, called for closer collaboration between Sri Lanka and the Maldives, envisioning a unified Tourist Area.
The President said there was an acute need for South Asian nations to work together to harness the growing economic power in the region. Whilst acknowledging the individualistic nature of South Asian countries, he proposed a model where selective integration in certain sectors could pave the way for effective collaboration.
Turning the spotlight on Sri Lanka’s economic plans, the President unveiled a series of proposals focused on restructuring and modernisation. The key objectives include establishing a competitive economy, embracing digital transformation, energy transition and fostering a Green Economy. The President said it was important to become a regional logistic hub and outlined plans for promoting upmarket tourism, modernising agriculture and introducing reforms in land ownership.
A significant recent announcement was the decision to grant freehold rights to farmers holding approximately two million acres of land, marking a significant step towards agricultural reform. The President also unveiled plans for large-scale modern agricultural enterprises, combining Government and private sector efforts to drive economic growth. In the realm of technology, the President has allocated funds to promote advancements, including venturing into Artificial Intelligence (AI).
The President outlined the potential industrialisation of Tamil Nadu in India and neighbouring regions, creating a major economic centre. The President encouraged Sri Lankan entrepreneurs to invest in neighbouring countries, emphasizing the country’s role in the development of Bangladesh and the exploration of investment opportunities in India, Myanmar, Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam and East and West Africa.
The President proposed the idea of a unified tourist area involving Sri Lanka, India, and the Maldives, expanding the scope in the future to include Nepal. He also outlined plans for a Bay of Bengal cruise area, positioning it as a larger alternative to the the Caribbean.
He highlighted some of the ongoing trade negotiations and agreements, including Sri Lanka’s application to enter the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) and the pursuit of Comprehensive Economic Partnerships with India and Bangladesh. The President said he was optimistic about the region’s economic potential and called upon young entrepreneurs to actively contribute to the envisioned regional economy.