Sri Lanka woos higher investments from Saudi Arabia

Friday, 27 May 2011 00:22 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

It is important to expedite the implementation of the MoU between Saudi Arabia and Sri Lanka by establishing the proposed joint commission. Sri Lanka also invites Saudi Arabia to the mega export exhibition “Sri Lanka Expo 2012.” The unique requirements and demographic of the Saudi tourist is an incentive for Saudi based investors who are interested in local tourism sector, said Sri Lanka’s Minister of Industry and Commerce Rishad Bathiudeen at the bilateral meeting with the Saudi Minister of Commerce and Industry Abdullah Zainal Ali Reza on 20 May in Jeddah.

Saudi Minister of Commerce and Industry Abdullah Zainal Ali Reza welcomes Minister Rishad Bathiudeen on 20 May in Jeddah

“The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and Sri Lanka have been enjoying a very cordial relationship for many decades. This opens vast opportunities to further consolidate our bilateral cooperation further,” Minister Bathiudeen said, adding, “Sri Lanka has now emerged as a very peaceful country in the region and is now stepping into a new era of socio-economic development under the able leadership of Mahinda Rajapaksa, President of Sri Lanka.”  

“Although we have a considerable amount of bilateral trade, I believe that there is huge potential to enhance it by further diversifying our trade baskets” Minister Bathiudeen said.

The bilateral trade between the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and Sri Lanka has passed the US $ 248 million mark. Sri Lanka’s total exports to Saudi Arabia in 2010 were US $ 43.8 while imports from Saudi Arabia were US $ 202.8 mn making the two way trade volume at US $ 246 million. Saudi Arabia is one of the important trading partners of Sri Lanka among the Gulf countries.

 “Apart from tea,  fruits and nuts, articles of apparel and clothing accessories, rubber and related products, vegetables, paper and paper board, miscellaneous edible preparations, live  plants and bulbs,  cut flowers feature prominently in our exports composition” Minister Bathiudeen said.

Emphasising the urgency and importance of MoU for a joint commission between the two countries, he said: “Both countries have signed a MoU for establishing a Joint Commission on trade, economic, investment, scientific, technical, cultural, youth and sports co-operation in 2003. Excellency, you would agree that it is important to expedite the implementation of the MoU by establishing the proposed joint commission at the earliest so that a strong platform is created to enhance and strengthen the existing bilateral relations between our two nations.  The implementation is so crucial that I look forward to your valuable personal engagement in achieving this goal in the near future.”

Speaking of the existing Saudi investments in Sri Lanka, he said: “I am happy to see that a few Saudi Arabian companies have invested in Sri Lanka in the areas of software development, computer services, healthcare sector, tourism and cutting and polishing of marble slabs and granite”.  

Speaking of the new investment arenas in Sri Lanka, Minister Bathiudeen said: “Another important aspect in our mutual trade and economic cooperation is the investment partnership with Saudi Investors especially in the field of agriculture as suitable lands are now available especially in the Northern and Eastern Provinces of Sri Lanka. This can include inland freshwater fishing and aquaculture. Sri Lanka is ready to provide the necessary infrastructure including land to Saudi investors based on a modality of mutual benefit. Sri Lanka’s tourism sector is another potential avenue for Saudi Investors seeking growth oriented investments.  This potential comes with the new realistic benchmark of 2.5 million tourist target for 2015 from its current level of 600,000, as envisaged by our government. This expected boom has created new opportunities especially in star hotels both in the urban and other outlying attractions, such as beaches and mountain ranges. The number of Saudi tourists visiting Sri Lanka in their summer holidays has increased to 8000 from 5400 in 2008. Due to the unique requirements and demographic nature of the Saudi tourist, we wish to invite interested Saudi investors to invest in this sector as well. In fact, I am happy to inform you that we have managed to facilitate faster investment procedures for international investors including that of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia with specially identified land parcels for such development. I urge the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to seize these emergent opportunities and partner in Sri Lanka’s new development era.” Minister Bathiudeen extended Sri Lanka’s invitation to Saudi Arabia for the 2012 mega export exhibition adding that exchange of bilateral delegations from both countries at all levels is important to boost bilateral cooperation and as a step in this direction. In response, the Saudi Minister assured his fullest support in encouraging a high profile delegation’s visit to the mega export show to be held in early 2012, called “Sri Lanka Expo 2012.”  

Saudi Minister of Commerce and Industry Abdullah Zainal Ali Reza apprised Minister Bathiudeen that both countries now have better possibilities to enhance trade in the newly peaceful Sri Lanka.

UAE Foreign Trade Minister Al Qasimi to visit Sri Lanka

Minister of Industry and Commerce, Rishad Bathiudeen  paid a courtesy call on UAE Foreign Trade Minister Lubna Bint Kalid Al Qasimi  at Abu Dhabi’s Ministry of Foreign Trade

Lubna Bint Kalid Al Qasimi, UAE’s Foreign Trade Minister is expected to visit Sri Lanka, says Rishad Bathiudeen, Minister of Industry & Commerce. Minister Bathiudeen revealed this after he paid a courtesy call on Her Highness Lubna Bint Kalid Al Qasimi at Abu Dhabi’s Ministry of Foreign Trade on 23 May.

“Her visit will further consolidate our trade relations and will help in bringing new UAE business engagement to Sri Lanka” Minister Bathiudeen added.

During the discussion, Minister Bathiudeen apprised the UAE Foreign Trade Minister of Sri Lanka’s new socio economic development trend and invited UAE business community for renewed trade partnership with Sri Lanka to further enhance mutual trade benefits.

Currently, UAE-Sri Lanka trade turnover stands at US $ 548.4 m (2010) of which Sri Lankan exports to UAE amounted to US $ 246.2 m, making UAE one of the key trading partners in the Middle East. Given the ‘trading hub’ outlook of both economies, a joint approach to avail of global market opportunities is a more beneficial option, agreed both Ministers.  

Minister Bathiudeen, accompanied by Sri Lankan Ambassador to UAE Sarath Wijesinghe and Consul General in Dubai, Abdul Raheem, discussed of the emerging opportunities in Sri Lanka, specially in the tourism and manufacturing sectors.

He informed Her Highness Lubna Bint Kalid Al Qasimi of the unrealised future trade potential between the two countries in this background of renewed bilateral trade cooperation efforts.  Apprising Her Highness Lubna Bint Kalid Al Qasimi of current UAE investments in Sri Lanka, Minister Bathiudeen said that UAE has become the largest Foreign Direct Investor to Sri Lanka among the Gulf countries and encouraged UAE to play a bigger role in this area. Minister Bathiudeen noted that among the well-known UAE conglomerates, Etisalat (mobile telecom), Al Ghuraia (real estate and manufacturing), and Al Futaim (automobile retailing), are now operating in Sri Lanka and have boosted the image of Sri Lanka’s corporate sector outlook significantly.