While Sri Lanka, for the first time, called on the United Nations for direct, wider engagement with the country's industry sector, the UN's apex industrial body, United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) has assured its 'best support and commitment' to the new government of President Maithripala Sirisena.
The Director General of the UNIDO Li Yong, who was visiting Sri Lanka from February 4-5, has announced six new industrial projects for the country when he met the Minister of Industry and Commerce Rishad Bathiudeen on February 05.
"UNIDO is ready to move ahead with Lankan people and the new government. Six new, strong, UNIDO projects are in the pipeline for Sri Lanka, which include industrial parks, climate change, chemical and waste management, and leather processing," Mr. Li announced addressing the bilateral session held at the Ministry of Industry and Commerce on Thursday.
Minister Bathiudeen led the team of Sri Lankan officials that met the UNIDO Director General. Also present were Additional Secretary Asitha Seneviratne, Department of Commerce DG R.D.S. Kumararatne nd other top officials.
Yong was joined by UNIDO Focal Point Colombo Head Nawaz Rajabdeen. This is the first time that a Vienna-based UNIDO Director General is officially touring Sri Lanka.
"Let me stress that it is time that Sri Lanka receives a full-fledged UNIDO country office. With the 100 day-programme of the newly elected President being implemented with a strong emphasis on support for industry and business establishing a full-fledged country office will send a strong positive signal to the industry and export sectors," said Minister Bathiudeen.
"I wish to thank UNIDO on behalf of people of Sri Lanka for the continued and valuable assistance extended to our country. President Maithripala Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe attach great importance to the work of UNIDO in Sri Lanka and everywhere," he added.
According to the Minister, Sri Lanka's industry sector contributes to almost one third of the GDP and therefore it's an important driver for Sri Lanka.
"In fact we lead in South Asia when it comes to industrial contribution rate to the overall GDP. Given that we are aiming at becoming an upper middle income economy the importance of this only tends to increase," the Minister told the UN official.
He informed that almost 85% of Sri Lanka's industrial economy is concentrated on manufacturing while approximately 680,000 people are engaged in the industry and 12% on the second aspect of the industrial economy, the mining sector.
The third aspect of Sri Lanka's industrial economy which is the 'electricity gas and water sector' takes only 0.19% of it but still plays a key role, Minister Bathiudeen said.
Within the manufacturing sector the largest number of establishments is under the "food and beverages sub sector" with 4,250 establishments and 127, 000 persons engaged in them.
In the second quarter of 2014, the industry sector contributed to 31.4% (totaling US$2 billion) of Sri Lanka's GDP.
"We continue to stress the importance of sustainable industrial development which should be an inclusive and unitary concept. The experiences of the developing countries have shown that development aid alone is not adequate and that manufacturing also played a crucial role in development," he noted.
Yong, addressing the bilateral session, said: "I am very pleased to let you know that UNIDO will continue and commit our best to support President Maithripala Sirisena’s new Government to implement more industrial development programs. We have enjoyed such a good relationship with Sri Lanka for a long time and under the new Government, it is time to expand this relationship. Sri Lanka is a very important member of UNIDO. There are many forms of natural, agro and human resources in Sri Lanka. The long history of national and international engagement by Sri Lanka is very commendable."
The Director General remarked that notable progress has been made by Sri Lanka in increasing its per capita income and poverty eradication.
"The World Economic Forum, in its global competitiveness report has described Sri Lanka's economy transitioning from factor driven stage to efficiency driven stage. This is very encouraging to see. Also UNIDO is ready to move ahead with Lankan people and the new government. No single country in this world has reached highest stage of economic development without developing its vast industrial sector."
"I also appreciate your government's support to the 15th Conference in Lima in which we passed the Lima Declaration where Inclusive and sustainable development has begun to be operationalized. We have implemented 89 projects and programs in Sri Lanka so far during our 40 years in Sri Lanka," the UN official noted.
Yong, who was also a member of the high profile international advisory body 'China Council for International Cooperation on Environment and Development (CCICED)', was a member of the Monetary Policy Committee of the China Central Bank for a decade and played a key role in China's cooperation with the World Bank and ADB. He was elected to lead UNIDO in 2013.
Yong was also scheduled to meet other high officials of the Government of Sri Lanka during his visit.