Sri Lanka’s strategic location in the Indian Ocean is an important consideration today, just as it was in ancient times, said External Affairs Minister Prof G.L.Peiris.
He affirmed that Sri Lanka’s Free Trade Agreements with India and Pakistan have made the country as the gateway to South Asia for investors. Further he added that Australian entrepreneurs, who would invest in Sri Lanka, would be able to export their goods duty free to the rapidly growing Indian consumer market as well as that of Pakistan.
Minister Peiris stressed that Sri Lanka’s human resources are one of the country’s major assets. With a literacy rate of 97%, Sri Lankan workers are easily adaptable to assignments from investors. The current emphasis of the government is to develop the country’s infrastructure, such as its road and rail networks, as well as harbours, airports and power stations. This is particularly true with the southern city of Hambantota, which now has an international airport and also a major harbor, he further said.
Minister Peiris added that Sri Lanka has a very liberal business environment, which is reflected by foreigners being permitted to fully own their company without the need of a local partner. Furthermore, foreign investors in Sri Lanka are free to repatriate their profits.
Minister Peiris took the occasion as an opportunity to invite Australian business leaders to the Commonwealth Business Forum to be held in November this year in Colombo, in conjunction with the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting. In that light, he brought attention to the fact that Sri Lanka has developed, and is publicizing, a number of interesting public and private sector structured projects for which Australian investment is most welcome.
Barry O’Farrell, Premier of NSW, spoke with the same positive attitude, affirming that, as Asia’s seventh largest economy on par with that of Taiwan, NSW was ready more than ever to invest in a genuinely bilateral engagement with Sri Lanka.
He exhorted business representatives present to ‘see deals done, opportunities created, jobs delivered, and economic investment continue’ in Sri Lanka. Dr. Lakshman Jayaweera, Chairman of BOI, introduced a new corporate film featuring Sri Lanka’s considerable potential for business and Foreign Direct Investment, and emphasised the countless possibilities and incentives for investing in Sri Lanka.
The Chairman also spoke of the privilege to host a meeting to bring the ‘two countries of [his] adoption and birth with the common objective of doing business together’.
The luncheon was attended by several high-profile Australian business leaders, as well as a number of parliamentarians from Sri Lanka, including Namal Rajapaksa, Lohan Ratwatte and Thilanga Sumathipala. Overall, the event was a great success in engaging business representatives from NSW, and is sure to make a lasting contribution to trade and investment relations between NSW and Sri Lanka.