Largest-ever Israel biz delegation enthusiastic about investment in Lanka

Tuesday, 27 August 2013 00:10 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

By Uditha Jayasinghe More countries should become aware of the ‘new chapter’ enjoyed by Sri Lanka since the end of the war to increase investment, Central Bank Governor Ajith Nivaard Cabraal said yesterday, calling on embassies to spread the word. Making the keynote address to the largest-ever Israel business delegation to Sri Lanka, he spoke of the “new brand” being forged for Sri Lanka and its gradual spread to the rest of the world. “I am happy to see our new image being promoted around the world by our embassies. The world is accessing Sri Lanka and your presence here is evidence of new interest in our island. We are all aware of the strength of Israel, particularly in the field of agriculture and we have much to learn from you,” he said. Cabraal encouraged the delegation, which consisted of companies interested in banking, insurance, security, tourism, vegetable exports, dairy and technology transfer among others to explore the five hub concept promoted by the ‘Mahinda Chinthana’. “Now this is the right time for Israeli investments in Sri Lanka. Our macro fundamentals are sound. Our interest rates are moderating and we have a stable banking environment. We have come a long way in Doing Business Ranking, currently at 81. The President is very keen to see it moving up and now we have set a goal of Rank 30 by 2016.” “Sri Lanka has upgraded its ports, built new airports, highways and focused on new opportunities. People who come here now will see that we have created investment opportunities that are bolstered by a highly skilled workforce, 100% power accessibility and geographical value as a commercial hub.” He also spoke of the avenues of cooperation open to tourism and increasing arrivals from Israel. Israeli biz are impressed with Sri Lanka’s beauty, tourism potential and above all, the investment climate – and want in right away, a statement from the Trade and Commerce Ministry said of the event. Strong B2B interest and activity was clearly evident at the first-ever EDB facilitated meeting between two historic nations. “Relations between Israel and Sri Lanka have never been better. There is strong potential for economic and business relations,” said a beaming Yahel Vilan, the Deputy Head of the Israeli Mission in New Delhi said. According to BoI, currently four Israeli investment projects are in operation in Sri Lanka, of which two are non-BoI. The projects being Harishet (BoI), Alankara SKR (BoI),  Pelemix Lanka (non-BoI), and Kenglobe Constructions(non-BoI). Their cumulative investment value stands at $ 1.543 m (Rs. 205 m). “Our relations with Israel go a long way back and it is multi-dimensional. During the past years, our bilateral trade with Israel has been growing steadily. In 2009, bilateral trade was only $ 76.11 m but by last year, it more than doubles to $ 158.35 m. Diamonds, brought down from Israel to Sri Lanka, are cut and polished here and shipped back to Israel. Annually, such diamond exports exceed $ 40 m mark and in 2012, Israel became the second largest Lankan diamond buyer with a total of $ 54 m. According to the Export Development Board, Sri Lanka’s overall exports to Israel increased by a strong 30% in 2012 to $ 74.36 m. Diamonds were the leading export in 2012 with 73% of total exports, followed by tea, frozen fish, rubber products, and textile articles. We also warmly invite Israeli investments to tourism infrastructure, bio-tech, agro technology and water resource management, all of which Israel is well known for,” Trade and Commerce Minister Rishad Bathiudeen said in a statement that was read out at the event.