- Says major investment and export plans already drafted
- Insists support must be given to President for implementation
- SL has second chance to regain opportunities lost to war
- About nine new investment zones in pipeline
Hailing the Board of Investment (BOI) celebrating four decades, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe yesterday said his Government together with President Sirisena was preparing for a great leap forward in investment and exports to catapult Sri Lanka towards stronger growth.
Wickremesinghe, who took part in the BOI 40th Anniversary celebrations with President Maithripala Sirisena, Development Strategies and International Trade Minister Malik Samarawickrama and the latter’s State Minister Sujeewa Senasinghe at the Katunayake Free Trade Zone recalled how he had been present at its opening with former President J. R. Jayewardene.
Having unveiled a plaque of former President Jayewardene followed by a visit to an exhibition of BOI milestones, the Prime Minister took a trip down memory lane in his speech. He told the gathering of Jayewardene’s plans to use the open economy as a platform to foster growth and development for Sri Lanka.
“At the time, our biggest challenge was finding jobs. The country had just faced an uprising and we understood that government institutions were insufficient to create the jobs that youth so desperately wanted. That is why we decided to establish investment zones,” he said.
The Katunayake Export Processing Zone was the first of its kind in South Asia, the Prime Minister noted, which served as the blueprint for many other similar ventures in India, China and Vietnam. Unfortunately, the early advantage of an open economy was lost to Sri Lanka a few years later when the war began and lucrative investment opportunities drifted to other countries.
Wickremesinghe acknowledged it was Sri Lanka’s luck that even though there were many bomb explosions in Colombo and other key landmarks around the country, the economic zones were never successfully targeted. This enabled the Government to hang onto investors who gradually expanded and provided increasing employment opportunities.
“Now we have an even bigger opportunity than we did in 1977. Now we have a chance to regain all that lost opportunity. This is why we formed a coalition Government; and we must support President Sirisena so that together we can implement the economic plan we have drafted for the next three years.”
As many as nine new economic zones are in the pipeline, the premier said, as part of the Government’s efforts to take development to the provinces. An investment corridor from Kandy to Wellawaya as well as other zones up to Paranthan is under discussion, he said. Former President Ranasinghe Premadasa opened over 200 apparel factories outside the zones, Wickremesinghe stated, which also pushed forward development, but in the present, advancements in technology has meant businesses can be established anywhere around the country.
The ceremony also included an award presentation. Awards were presented to the best performing BOI companies as well as their long serving employees. Senior employees of the BOI were also felicitated