By Nisthar Cassim in Tokyo
Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida on Monday declared that bilateral ties with Sri Lanka would strengthen further and urged his country’s private sector to contribute to the future development of the island nation.
He made this clarion call when he delivered the keynote at a packed Sri Lanka Investor Forum organised by NWS Holdings Ltd. yesterday in Tokyo.
Fresh from a meeting with the visiting Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe in Tokyo, the Japanese Foreign Minister said that bilateral ties with Sri Lanka were bound to strengthen further.
Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida shakes hands with Tourism Minister John Amaratunga in Tokyo at the NWS Holdings Investor Forum on Sri Lanka. Bansei Holdings Co. Ltd. Japan President Toyohiko Murakami, NWS Holdings Chairman Takashi Igarashi and Group Managing Director Viraj Malawana are also present. Below: Some of the participants at the Forum in Tokyo which drew over 300 Japanese investors
He informed the Tokyo Forum that Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe was now visiting Japan as a ‘Distinguished Official Guest’ following the election of the new Government on 17 August.
“With the summit with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe (scheduled today in Tokyo), now our historical amicable relations are about to strengthen greatly,” Kishida told the NWS Holdings Investor Forum attended by over 300 Japanese investors.
However, the Japanese Foreign Minister said stronger economic relationship could not be achieved only by an effort of the Government. “Powerful initiatives of the private sector together with the effort of the Government make it possible to achieve the goal. I believe this forum is very timely in such circumstances,” Kishida said.
The NWS Holdings Forum drew actual investors from Japan who have exposure to Sri Lanka Government bonds and listed equities apart from those with immense potential. NWS together with its partner Bansei Securities Group has been responsible for attracting nearly Rs. 60 billion in Japanese investments into Sri Lanka. Of that figure over Rs. 40 billion is on Government Treasury Bonds.
“I expect that many Japanese companies including Bansei Group will contribute to economic development promoted by the new Government through brisk and lively business activities, and consequently the bond between people in Sri Lanka and Japan will be stronger,” the Japanese Foreign Minister added.
Sri Lanka’s Tourism Minister John Amaratunga who was the Guest of Honour at the forum made it a point to thank Japanese investors who have made investments in to Government Bonds. “I can confirm that Sri Lanka as a nation has never defaulted on repayments and as such our Sovereign Bonds are safe and secure investment for foreign investors,” he added.
Amaratunga also said the fact that Premier Wickremesinghe had chosen Japan as the second country to visit since assuming office highlighted the importance and trust Sri Lanka had in Japan as a key ally in the region.
“The Prime Minister’s visit will surely strengthen the work that has already begun and foster further investment and relations between our two countries,” emphasised Amaratunga.
"With the summit with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe (scheduled today in Tokyo) now our historical amicable relations are about to strengthen greatly I expect that many Japanese companies will contribute to economic development promoted by the new Government through brisk and lively business activities, and consequently the bond between people in Sri Lanka and Japan will be stronger – Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida in his keynote at the NWS Holdings Sri Lanka Investor Forum in Tokyo"
He said that the new Government’s agenda was strictly non-aligned and that the Government was keen to position Sri Lanka as a hub for the entire region given the Free Trade Agreements with India and Pakistan.
Revealing that Sri Lanka’s economic growth was at 6.7%, the Minister said the new Government was confident of continuing this momentum in the next few years.
The Japanese investors present at the NWS Forum were briefed about some of the new Government’s plans on mega development and infrastructure projects including the ‘Megapolis’. Amaratunga also spoke of developments in the tourism industry, the impressive growth numbers achieved so far and projections for the future.
Other speakers at the forum included former Japanese Ambassador to Sri Lanka Nobuhito Hobo, Consul General for Sri Lanka in Osaka Udaya Aluthgamage, existing investors in Sri Lanka, NWS Holdings Chairman Takashi Igarashi and Bansei Holdings Co. Ltd. Japan President Toyohiko Murakami.
Several Sri Lankan companies including Just In Time Holdings, Jetwing, Micro Holdings, Altair, Spa Ceylon and Pan Asia Bank made brief presentations as well in addition to SriLankan Airlines, which partnered the Forum along with the Sri Lanka Tourism Promotion Bureau.
It was the sixth road show and investor forum organised by NWS Holdings, but this year the scope was expanded to cover additional sectors. These included tourism, leisure and lifestyles, real estate, property development and construction, manufacturing and ICT apart from financial services and capital markets.