Web portal to improve Ease of Doing Business in Sri Lanka goes live
From Left: Finance Ministry Secretary Dr. R.H.S. Samaratunga Industries and commerce Minister Rishard Badurdeen Finance Minister Ravi Karunanayake and Highways & investment Promotion Deputy Minister Eran Wickramaratne at the head table. Pic by Upul Abayasekara
By Charumini de Silva
Finance Minister Ravi Karunanayake yesterday said that the country was in a buoyant position to once again attract investors.
He said that the way forward was to ensure that Sri Lankan was showcased in a positive light to the rest of the world.
“Sri Lanka was off the map for many years and we can see it coming back. Once again there are many strong trade partners that are willing to come in such as India, the European Union, China, Japan and Korea,” he said, addressing the inaugural session of a series of meetings between Government institutions and the private sector to facilitate the ‘Ease of Doing Business’ organised by the Finance Ministry.
More than 100 members from the private sector, representing a wide cross-section of industries, attended the inaugural session, held under the patronage of Finance Minister Ravi Karunanayake, Industry and Commerce Minister Rishad Bathiudeen, Treasury Secretary Dr. R.H.S. Samarathunge, Senior Advisor to the Prime Minister R. Paskaralingam, Investment Promotion, Higher Education and Highways Deputy Minister Eran Wickremaratne along with secretaries to several key ministries.
The key objectives of these meetings were to identify and address the procedural and regulatory issues in doing business in the country. The session provided a great platform for the private sector to interact with relevant government institutions and seek responses to their queries.
Many queries were directed to the Customs Department, Sri Lanka Ports Authority and Inland Revenue Department from the private sector.
Minister Karunanayake, along with Industry and Commerce Minister Rishad Bathiudeen and Investment Promotion, Higher Education and Highways Deputy Minister Eran Wickremaratne launched the first ‘web portal for Ease of Doing Business’ in Sri Lanka.
This web portal allows the business community to submit their queries online directly to the designated office at each government institution and get them resolved in a timely manner.
The Minister said: “We need to position ourselves as one of the best investor-friendly countries in the region. We want your support because you all are the best ambassadors to market our country. Hence we want you to show the world that the environment is rather buoyant for investors to come in and Sri Lanka is moving in the right direction.”
The Government is also looking to substitute imports that would help the economy by reducing the import bill.
Confirming that the strategy for the next three to four years was to focus on the export sector, he said: “Our thrust is to ensure that we have exports, exports and more exports. We have to move Sri Lanka to a regional market, expanding its scope and market share from the domestic to the international arena. Regionalising is an area we are looking at and this would certainly give a cheaper production cost at a higher selling ability allowing us to be competitive in the export market.”
Exports amounted to only $ 11.3 billion compared to $19.46 billion in imports, leaving a trade gap of $ 8.27 billion.
“It is yours and our duty to mitigate this trade gap. We have a balance of payment surplus but the trade gap must be made positive to ensure an overall healthy situation,” Karunanayake said.
The Minister urged the entire business community and potential investors to make use of this opportunity.
“This is a forum where policy-level matters that have dragged on for a year need to be cleaned up. The ranking of Ease of Doing Business slipped down from 81 in 2013 to 105 in 2014. We need to get this corrected. This is the best way forward and we will have the next meeting on 11 June,” he added.