Global investment paves the way for Sri Lanka’s new growth

Friday, 27 September 2013 00:49 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

Sri Lanka is set to take centre stage of South Asian development with a host of strategic investment projects taking off. The upcoming CHOGM summit, due to take place in the country in November 2013, affords Sri Lanka an opportunity to showcase itself to the world as a confident and vibrant emerging economy, thereby inviting more Foreign Direct Investment. It is important to consider the backdrop against which Sri Lanka’s new development is going to take place. For 30 years, the country was shackled by a civil war that created havoc within the country and its people. It was only after May 2009, with the flushing out of the LTTE, that the country could fast track its development in keeping with the vision of the President for a new Sri Lanka that meets the aspirations of its people. Strategic location Sri Lanka is strategically located at the cross roads of both the East and West sea routes and serves as the point of entry into South Asia. The country’s strategic location on the world map allows the nation to enjoy a plethora of benefits which certain global giants are identifying as exciting opportunities to contribute their free flow of capital, knowledge and best practices. In the leisure sector, international brands such as Shangri La, Hyatt, Movenpick, etc., have begun work on leisure properties to enhance the tourism product of the country while the likes of Crown Resorts will shortly embark on integrated resort projects which have the capacity to draw in large numbers of high value tourists. Already, Colombo boasts of long-standing Hilton and Taj properties, in addition to local 5-star hotels such as the Cinnamon Grand, Cinnamon Lakeside, Kingsbury and Water’s Edge. Along the coastal belt too a number of star class properties and award winning smaller boutique hotels enjoy FDI partnerships. ‘Wonder of Asia’ At this crucial transformational juncture, Sri Lanka has opened its doors and invited investment from world renowned brands, who have the stature, experience and prowess to boost the development drive initiated by the Government with a 2020 vision to make Sri Lanka ‘The Wonder of Asia’. When there are other countries in the Asian region such as Vietnam, Thailand, Maldives and Indonesia, blossoming and evolving to meet the challenges of the modern age, it’s a wonderful opportunity for Sri Lanka to be handpicked as a viable destination for investment with growth potential. Singapore It would be prudent to consider the Singapore example to illustrate this point. Ten years ago, Singapore had concerns regarding their flat inbound tourist numbers and the tendency for visitors not to stay long enough the country complaining that the country had nothing out of the ordinary to offer. In 2004 however, the Government decided to build two of the world’s largest integrated resorts with an extremely diverse range of leisure and entertainment activities. Resorts World Sentosa was the first of Singapore’s integrated resorts to open in January 2010. The second resort, Marina Bay Sands, opened in April 2010. These spectacular edifices have today become instantly recognisable images around the world. Above all, the year that these two resorts were opened, Singapore’s GDP increased by 14% with the resorts contributing approximately S$ 3.7 billion. In the year 2011, these two resorts paid S$ 1.1 billion in taxes. In short, since the two resorts opened in Singapore tourism receipts have almost doubled from S$ 12.6 billion to S$ 23 billion and the number of visitors has grown to 14.4 million by 2012. In terms of employment growth, directly over 22,000 people have been employed by the two projects with more than 40,000 jobs being supported throughout the Singaporean economy. Ready for change Sri Lanka will undoubtedly be a mirror of Singapore’s amazing transformation and the forward-thinking Sri Lankan is ready for this big change. It is the duty of the progressive Sri Lankan people to view development with global investment in the positive light that it deserves to be considered. No nation or commercially successful enterprise in the world will be channelling their resources to nations without a potential to grow their investment and business. Therefore the decision by large, international brands to expand their network to Sri Lanka augurs very well for our country’s growth and developmental potential. We must hope that the decision to invest in our country will be emulated by other leading global enterprises in the future as well. Sri Lanka is blessed with one of the best assets, a large pool of human capital. The Sri Lankan people boast of a higher literacy rate than their counterparts in the region. Foreign Direct Investment will be the best way we as a nation can fulfil our aspirations to the fullest. This is Sri Lanka’s moment. All of us as patriotic Sri Lankans must believe in this reality and work toward becoming stakeholders and beneficiaries in our different capacities. (The writer is Senior Minister for International Monetary Co-operation and Deputy Minister of Finance.)

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