In a sharply focused forum to sell Sri Lanka’s multiple attributes as a ideal location for foreign investment, the organizers flew in some ‘big guns’ from Colombo to make the sales pitch.
They were joined by representatives of companies that were already based in Sri Lanka and have been operating there, and had a story to tell prospective investors of their own experiences which made the tales less officious and more realistic and plausible.
Held at London’s Stock Exchange recently the investment forum brought together a diverse group of Sri Lankan officials, current investors and others attracted perhaps by what the country has to offer and will be able to offer in the future as on-going infrastructure projects are completed and new legislative and policy measures taken.
Among those who flew in from Colombo for a quick turn-around were Dr Harsha de Silva, Minister of Economic Reforms and Public Distribution; Mangala Yapa Chairman Board of Investment and Dr Nandalal Weerasinghe, Senior Deputy Governor of the Central Bank who, understandably, presented the official side of things with facts and figures to buttress their case for investing in Sri Lanka.
While this was aimed at the financial cognoscenti that formed part of the 70 representatives from the corporate sector among the 120 participants and were eager for more information before they could pick up the slack.
The sectors that were represented were IT and IT enabled services, manufacturing, logistics, tourism infrastructure, financial services, education and skills development and renewable energy, among others.
Perhaps the most informative and interesting presentation that the appealed the widest audience came from Liang Thow Ming, Chief Sales and Marketing Officer, CHEC Port City Colombo that is going to change Colombo’s landscape and the wide variety of facilities available in the economic ‘epicentre’ of Sri Lanka.
His clear and optimistic assessment of the future of the project and how far it has progressed made even a regular visitor to Colombo attached to a foreign investment venture comment that such important information had hitherto not been available to them pointing no doubt to a communications gap.
At the London end, the Sri Lanka High Commission in the UK was one of the organizers of this event. High Commissioner Manisha Gunasekeratold told the audience of the especial bond between Sri Lanka and the UK because of history and many common ties they share.
Moreover Sri Lanka has important trade links with the UK which accounts for nearly 10 per cent of Sri Lankan’s total exports. It is the second single largest export market High Commissioner Gunasekera said.
Chief Guest Lord Tariq Ahmad, Minister of State for the Commonwealth, UN and South Asia at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office referring to his very recent visit to Colombo said he was struck by the energy and drive of Sri Lanka business leaders and the youth.
He reminded the gathering of Sri Lanka’s status as a vibrant emerging trading hub and the country’s upward move of Sri Lanka’s ranking in the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business Index 2019 by 11 places.
Earlier High Commissioner Manisha Gunasekera pointed out that Sri Lanka had attracted a significant number of flagship investment projects from the UK in the past including HSBC, De La Rue, WNS and LSE. Sri Lanka is also a top tourist destination for UK visitors.
An interesting development which was discussed during the coffee break and later was whether Sri Lanka would draw some benefits such as increased trade and investment once the UK leaves the European Union now a matter of intense negotiation between the UK and the EU.