US Assistant Secretary of State Robert O. Blake yesterday called on the Government to promote transparency and good governance in order to encourage more American investors.
He told reporters at the end of his visit that investment could be encouraged if the Government took measures to improve the investment clime.
A speech given by him to the American Chamber of Commerce (AMCHAM) noted that this difficult sphere needed to be addressed.
“In the three years since the end of the conflict, to be frank, we have not seen very many new US companies come to invest in Sri Lanka. It’s not for lack of trying, but our investors, and investors from many other countries as well, face an uphill battle in Sri Lanka’s marketplace. The barriers include confusing and opaque rules on bidding for contracts, unpredictable Government regulations such as the recent so-called Underutilised Assets Bill, and corruption. Sri Lanka moved up the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business rankings from 98 to 89 in 2012, but actually lost ground in several key categories, including the ease of starting a business, dealing with construction permits, and registering property,” he said.
The Government’s progress in developing ports, aviation, and other infrastructure are not enough to realise the true potential of the Sri Lankan economy, he said, and require more aggressive reduction of tariff and non-tariff barriers, and liberalisation of the rules for Foreign Direct Investment.
“I am aware that such changes do not come easily. Entrenched interests resist change. But the benefits are worth the effort, and it is very much in the interest of the business community to help promote such changes,” he added.