The Union for the Protection of the Board of Investment which took to the streets mid last month to protest against the new restructuring process of the Board of Investment (BOI) yesterday claimed that no action had yet been taken either to correct the situation or address the concerns of the employees.
The Union which asserted that as no reply had been received to their letter dated 3 November, 2010 addressed to President Rajapaksa another letter was sent on the 1st of this month but to no avail.
The President of the Union for the protection of BOI A.S. Subasinghe speaking to Daily FT urged the relevant authorities to intervene and stop the restructuring process since the current restructuring would be for the detriment of the country.
The letter is as follows:
Your Excellency the President,
Protecting the BOI from destruction
This has reference to the letter dated 3.11.2010 addressed to Your Excellency by the employees of the BOI. We are sorry that no reply has been received to our letter despite it being sent to you by registered post.
As you are well aware, through the investment brought in by the Board of Investment, it has been possible to set up a strong base for the primary export industry in Sri Lanka. The many industries such as the lucrative apparel sector were set up as a result of the activities of the BOI. From 1978 onwards the employees of the BOI have contributed immensely for this success.
However the officers appointed by you after securing a 2/3 majority at the General Elections have been creating havoc in the investment promotion mechanism by putting in place a new restructuring plan distorting the structure of the Board and driving it from bad to worse. The restructuring process began on 11 February 2011 and from them onwards activities of three key departments of the Board of Investment — Promotion department, Investment department and Monitoring Department have come to a standstill.
In tandem the BOI has stopped granting approval to projects worth less than Rs. 300 million and also has no proper method to grant approval to projects worth over Rs. 300 million.
Our belief is that 80% of the investment proposals received by the BOI range between Rs. 25 million to Rs.300 million. Therefore not giving approval to project proposals that are below Rs. 300 million is as good as the Board cutting its own neck. This would negatively affect the country’s investment portfolio.
The seriousness of the situation is that although during the period of war Sri Lanka has managed to attract USD 600-800 million annually; in 2010 when there was no war and the country has managed to attract much less investment than what it was able to attract during the turbulent times.
Furthermore we believe that to take Sri Lanka to the status of the ‘Miracle of Asia’, developing only the hotel sector and tourism sector would not be enough. More attention should be paid to the manufacturing and production sector. The manufacturing sector is known as an important employment creation and high foreign revenue earning sector.
In the new restructuring process of the Board of Investment four floors of the ten floors allocated for the Board in the World Trade Centre is being vacated. We would like to know what the connection is between restructuring of the Board of Investment and the reduction of the floor space. We are doubtful whether the four floors are to be utilised for any particular political agenda.
The Investment Services Department which previously came under the Board of Investment was transferred to the Sri Lanka Customs last year. This could be cited as a fine example of the rapid closure of the Board of Investment.
Therefore the policies followed by your government relating to the Board of Investment would lead to the ruination of both the Board as well as the country. We therefore urge you to intervene to stop this impending destruction and take action to stop the current restructuring process of the BOI. We kindly request Your Excellency to give us a time for the employees to present the matter in person to Your Excellency.
A.S. Subasinghe Sgd. Sunil Gunawardena