In the historic buildings of Colombo University, Mark Gooding, Deputy High Commissioner of the British High Commission, held a lively exchange of views on 14 March about the UK economy with students from the Department of Business Economics.
At the invitation of Faculty Dean, Professor Sunil Chandrasiri and Course Director, Prof. HD Karunaratne, Gooding delivered a speech to around 100 students about the UK’s economic strength, and how the UK can contribute to Sri Lanka’s economic development. He also explained why, despite recent challenges, the UK economic recovery is underway and the underlying strength of the UK economy will continue to support global economic development and economic growth.
Commenting on the event, Gooding said, “I am delighted to have met so many able and motivated students at the University of Colombo today to discuss the UK economy and international trade. The UK has long been a global centre for trade and investment. Its historical links to Sri Lanka mean that commercial ties between our two countries are already well established.
“The UK is Sri Lanka’s second largest trading partner, and second largest provider of foreign direct investment. And over 100,000 British tourists visit Sri Lanka each year. After the recent period of global economic turbulence, the UK Government has taken decisive measures to bring about a sustainable economic recovery. These include steps to eliminate the UK public spending deficit by 2015 and to boost the UK’s international trade and investment. These steps will ensure that successful commercial partnerships between the UK and Sri Lanka will continue to flourish in the years ahead.”
The UK is Sri Lanka’s second largest trading partner by volume. Sri Lankan exports to the UK totalled US $1 billion in 2010, and imports from the UK were US$ 186 million. UK companies also provide US $300 million of foreign direct investment in Sri Lanka in 2010. This is over 10% of all foreign direct investment in Sri Lanka, more than any other country apart from China.
The UK is one of the world’s leading inward investment destinations. The factors that contribute to its success include its open business environments and the fact that the economy is built on and driven by innovation. For example, the UK has long been an innovator in such areas as ICT, engineering and low carbon technology.
In 2010, the UK again topped Ernst & Young’s European Attractiveness Survey which points to the UK as the ‘location of choice for headquarters and research and development projects’.
In addition, the UK has one of the most stable and well-regulated, least corrupt business environments in the world. According to Transparency International, the UK is one of the most transparent countries in the world. Finally, the UK is a gateway to the European market. As a member of the European Union, the UK provides access to the single biggest common market in the world. The EU economy is bigger even than the US economy.
The British Government has taken decisive steps to ensure sustainable economic growth in the future, by reducing the deficit and by promoting trade and investment. In 2010, the UK economy grew by 1.8% and is expected to grow by 2.1% this year.
Behind this headline growth, both services sector and consumer spending are growing, and construction output is also increasing quickly. The IMF estimates that in 2015 the UK will have the joint highest growth of all G7 countries.
There are already over 100 companies with UK affiliations working in Sri Lanka. There are also more UK tourists visiting Sri Lanka than from any other Western nation and over 100,000 more are expected to visit this year. The cultural bonds between the UK and Sri Lanka make education and training an ever expanding area for business partnership between our countries.
British Council and UKTI have welcomed a number of UK Higher Education providers to Sri Lanka, such as Northumbria University, Coventry University, Sheffield Hallam University, and many, many others.