Japanese businesses must take advantage of Sri Lanka’s strategic location, preferential market access into key economies, and be an early mover in the country’s new growth drive, remarked Minister of Development Strategies and International Trade Malik Samarawickrama at an investor forum in Tokyo.
He was speaking to a forum of over 300 Japanese businesses alongside the visit by President Maithripala Sirisena. He recalled Japan’s enduring partnership in Sri Lanka’s development over the past six decades, and remarked “We now welcome Japanese investment into our country because we know it will help transform our economy”.
Japan has been a steadfast supporter of Sri Lanka’s infrastructure development, through generous aid and technical assistance. From the first loan back in 1965 under the Colombo Plan, Japanese development assistance has played an important and conscious role in Sri Lanka’s economic development through helping Sri Lanka to bridge the country’s infrastructure needs as well as aiding the growth of its industrial sector.
“Sri Lanka is now on a new path of progress towards an economy that is a hub in the Indian Ocean, and an attractive place for business in Asia.”
The Government has taken numerous initiatives to stabilise and re-orient the economy, from a growth model that was heavily dependent on debt-fuelled public spending, to one driven more by the private sector, trade, and FDI. “We have taken many measures to build strength and resilience in our economy. We are very focused on fiscal consolidation, and the results are already visible with the budget deficit improving and the international ratings agencies providing favourable outlooks.”
On monetary policy, the Central Bank has moved towards a market-determined exchange rate regime and is proactively keeping inflation in check.
“We are committed to improving the ease of doing business. By mid this year, the time taken to registering a new business will reduce from 6 days to just one day.”
Through the new Colombo International Financial City and Port City projects, we are creating a unique business climate that is globally-competitive and will provide an attractive operating environment like no other in the South Asian region.
These initiatives are being complemented by comprehensive trade policy reforms.
To leverage on our location and to expand market access, we are expanding our trade and investment links with a diverse set of countries – US, EU, India, China, Singapore, Japan; and we also are signing a number of trade agreements.
“While we focus on growing and sustaining in our traditional markets of the US and Europe, we have begun to diversify our markets towards Asia and focus on plugging in to Asian supply chains, “the Minister said.
“We are close to concluding two more bilateral trade agreements – an Economic and Technology Cooperation Agreement with India and a Comprehensive FTA with China. This will be followed by FTAs with Thailand and Malaysia. We also recently regained the GSP Plus trade concessions to the European Union and we already have an FTA with Pakistan.”
Many Japanese investors have already found success in Sri Lanka and they include, Dockyard, Noritake, ITOCHU, SBI Holdings in financial services, Okaya Electric Industries, Toslec and FDK SG Holdings and Tokyo Cement.
“We are keen to find Japanese partners who can work closely with our private sector to reach global markets, and partners who can bring in Japanese know-how and technology to us.”