Britain is among the countries that lead the world in finance, ICT and education, three of the special priority areas the Finance Minister mentioned in his Budget speech. It’s true and we’re proud of it.
Lots of leading British companies and organisations are well-established here – HSBC, Standard Chartered, the London Stock Exchange with Millennium IT, the British Council. More than two dozen British universities – 28 to be precise – offer access to their qualifications through local education providers in Sri Lanka; cutting edge Sri Lankan apparel companies increasingly partner and collaborate with UK Universities in their Research and Development work. Another 150 companies with a UK affiliation have bases in Sri Lanka in a wide range of sectors.
We are encouraged that in the first nine months of this year UK exports to Sri Lanka were up 44% on the same period in 2014. We’re proud of this too. Sri Lanka sells a lot more things to the UK, and we are ambitious to close the gap in our balance of trade. That said, we firmly believe that a strong commercial relationship is a win-win for both of our countries, a win-win that builds growth, employment opportunities and prosperity.
Going a step further, our firm view is that global prosperity is good for the UK. It brings direct benefits from greater trade and investment opportunities, and indirect benefits from reduced conflict and instability overseas. Our national security depends on our economic security, and vice versa.
Emerging and developing countries will be increasingly important in driving global growth in the medium term. Putting in place the right policies and reforms will be essential to unlock their full potential for growth. It is in all our interests that we promote the golden thread of conditions that drive prosperity all across the world: the rule of law, good governance and the growth of democracy.
Getting this right is in part the responsibility of governments and I am sure that many of you will have been involved in discussions with your Government about what policies and reforms are needed to unlock Sri Lanka’s full potential for growth. Getting this right is also, I believe, a responsibility for each of us as leaders, in my case of a High Commission, in yours of companies, however big or small.
As leaders we need to act out and stand for our core values, what we believe is right and good. As businesses we need to act out and stand for our business values – that we are honest and disdain corruption; that we care for our employees; that we care for our customers; that we are responsible; that we are ethical; that we are environmentally aware. We know that more and more customers take account of such factors when deciding what to buy and from whom. These are principles that make not only businesses strong, but that make societies strong.