A unique opportunity to promote Sri Lanka as a destination for Foreign Direct Investment took place recently when I was invited to be a part of a delegation from the BOI to address 150 members of the Indo German Chamber of Commerce. I was honored to have been the first guest speaker from a foreign country to address this important German forum
A unique opportunity to promote Sri Lanka as a destination for Foreign Direct Investment took place recently when a delegation from the BOI headed by Eran Wickramaratne, Deputy Minister of Highways and Investment Promotion addressed 150 members of the Indo German Chamber of Commerce. Minister Wickramaratne was the very first guest speaker from a foreign country to address this important German forum in India as in the past leading personalities from Germany such as the President of Germany, Prime Minister of Bavaria and 2 Federal ministers of Germany had been invited to deliver the Key Note Address.
The Indo-German Chamber of Commerce is the single largest Chamber of Commerce from Europe based in India. Minister Eran Wickramaratne described the changes that Sri Lanka had undergone since elections that took place in January this year both on the political and economic front. The German business representatives were very receptive to the efforts made by Sri Lanka to build a climate which was investor friendly for German Enterprises.
Minister Wickramaratne pointed out that India and Germany enjoyed a unique relationship since the end of 2nd World War and this has led to considerable economic interaction between two countries. Sri Lanka too had in recent months strengthened relations with India and there had been the state visit of President Maithripala Sirisena to India which was followed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s own state visit to Sri Lanka. This was in fact the first visit by an Indian Prime Minister in nearly 3 decades and perhaps the first time an Indian Prime Minister addressed Sri Lankan parliament.
Hence there was a realization on the part of both countries that neighbours can prosper if they work together closely. In fact Indian Prime Minister’s policy of ‘make in India’ should be interpreted as ‘make in South Asia’. This is because Sri Lanka is an integral part of the global value chain and therefore linked to India and Germany as well. There are also parallels between Germany’s past experiences and Sri Lanka’s current changes. The Minister stated that Sri Lanka was at a seminal point of its history and benefits of peace have now accrued to the people. The new President was promising a future which would include an inclusive and nationally representative Government. There are many parallels with Germany and lessons to be learnt. The Minister also added that the major changes Sri Lanka would undergo would be strengthening of the rule of law, creating a healthy balance between the executive and the parliament and establishment of an independent judiciary. Furthermore the country’s foreign policy has been rebalanced. The Minister also spoke of Sri Lanka’s strength as a logistical hub thanks to its excellent habours and connections to the rest of the world. With regard to German Companies Minister Wickramaratne said that he was keen to attract German investments due to their excellence in engineering and very high standards of manufacturing. Currently Germany is Sri Lanka 5th largest market and exports mainly apparel, solid tyres, tea, gloves and some other items.
The event was coordinated on the Sri Lanka side by the BOI which was assisted by the Consul General in Mumbai Ms. Saroja Sirisena. BOI was represented by Ms. Nilupul De Silva, Director (Promotion) and in-charge of relations with European countries, with Mr. Manilal Ranasinghe-Deputy Director (Promotions).
The event was very well attended and included a very wide range of companies including fortune 500 companies as German enterprises had always been interested in investing in India.
Hence this was an opportunity for Sri Lanka to promote investments from Germany. The German side also showed keen interest in forging stronger ties between Sri Lanka and German Companies. The German Ambassador in Sri Lanka H.E. Dr. Jurgen Morhard also addressed this gathering and encouraged them to consider investing in Sri Lanka. There are already a number of German Companies which are operating Sri Lanka and their involved in a wide range of sectors including manufacturing, tourism and infrastructure development.