The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) now stands as the largest employer of Sri Lankans outside of Sri Lanka and has committed $ 300 million for Sri Lanka’s development projects.
“Relations between KSA and Sri Lanka are excellent and are based on mutual respect and joint cooperation. KSA commits to projects in Sri Lanka through the Saudi Fund for Development,” said Ambassador of the Royal Embassy of Saudi Arabia in Sri Lanka Abdulnaser H.O. Al Harthi on 25 September, addressing the 88th National Day celebration of KSA in Colombo. Harthi was joined by the Minister of Industry and Commerce of Sri Lanka Rishad Bathiudeen and many other visitors.
“The total funds guaranteed by the Saudi Fund for Development to Sri Lanka reaches nearly $ 300 m in various sectors – health, education, water supply, irrigation, agriculture and road development. The Kingdom also accommodates nearly 200,000 skilled Sri Lankan workers,” added Harthi.
Among the leading KSA-funded projects in Sri Lanka are the Epilepsy Hospital in Colombo, the Kaluganga Development, Badulla-Chenkaladi Road Improvement, the Road Network Development, Wayamba University Township Development and the Kaluganga River Left Bank Development Project.
Representing the Government of Sri Lanka as the Chief Guest, Bathiudeen lauded bilateral ties since 1974, extended his greetings to the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud, Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud and the KSA Government and highlighted unexplored but ‘great potential’ between the two countries.
- SL-KSA trade at $ 215 m, packs bigger potential: Rishad KSA employs 200,000 Sri Lankans: Harthi Total trade surges after 2003 MoU, increases in 2017 to $ 215 m
“I wish to recognise the support and solidarity extended to Sri Lanka by the KSA in the multilateral fora. KSA stands as the 23rd import partner in the Sri Lankan market while Sri Lanka is ranked as the 82nd import partner in the Saudi Arabian market. In the last three year period from 2014 to 2017, Sri Lanka’s total trade with Saudi Arabia was around $ 215 million annually. Sri Lanka’s major export to Saudi Arabia has been Ceylon Tea. Last year Ceylon Tea exports to Saudi Arabia was at $ 27 million, accounting for 36% of the total exports to Saudi Arabia. We believe that there is great trade potential between both countries that have not been exploited and it is now time that we should exploit this potential jointly.”
Sri Lanka’s main exports to KSA last year were tea, apparel, bananas, desiccated coconut and fish. Such export revenues are apart from the large Riyal transfers by Sri Lankan workers in KSA. Leading imports from KSA last year were plastics, gas oil/diesel, chemicals, paper, tanning/dying extracts and glassware.
In 2003, KSA and Sri Lanka signed a MoU setting up the first Joint Commission on Trade, Economic, Investment, Scientific, Technical, Cultural, Youth and Sports Co-operation. Thereafter, annual bilateral trade (at $ 105 m in 2003) continued to surge, and a decade later in 2013, reported a high of $ 290 m. By last year total trade levelled at $ 215.37 m (that too, with an increase of 6% from 2015’s $ 203 m).