Sri Lanka’s Board of Investment surpasses halfway mark of $ 2 billion FDI target
Daily FT: The Board of Investment (BOI) has surpassed the halfway mark of the $ 2.2 billion Committed Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) target for 2022, which if realised would be thrice the value achieved last year. Amidst challenges, the BOI is confident of making 2022 a successful year with Director-General Renuka Weerakone expressing optimism in view of on-going initiatives to make it a seamless investment facilitator than a regulator.
“As of the first week of August, we have signed a total of 75 agreements to the value of $ 1.29 billion, which consists of $ 925 million foreign and $ 361 million local investments. Of these 75 projects, 26 are new and the balance 49 are expansion projects. The total realised FDIs up to the first quarter is $ 228 million,” she told the Daily FT.
The Central Bank of Sri Lanka data shows that Sri Lanka attracted $ 1.37 billion FDIs in 2017 and $ 1.16 billion in 2018, but the trend slowed down sharply post-Easter Sunday attacks in 2019 to $ 743. Thereafter, despite the COVID pandemic, Sri Lanka attracted $ 434 million and in 2021 it improved slightly to $ 598 million FDIs.
Despite the multiple challenges the country faced, the Director-General asserted that overall, this year so far had been buoyant.
“I cannot say it is a great year, but it has been promising because even amidst the economic and political crises, we have attracted investment. The majority of these investments are coming from existing investors expanding their capacities and reinvesting in new areas. We are optimistic that these committed investments will soon be converted as realised investments,” she added.
Weerakone also noted that the high number of expansion projects shows the level of confidence among the existing investors in the Sri Lankan economy.
“Multiple investors are knocking on the door for sizable renewable energy projects. We hope the new laws passed in the Parliament on the energy industry will help to realise these investments soon,” she said, adding that most of the investors were from the Nordic and Middle Eastern countries.
She also highlighted that the BOI is constantly working on streamlining services offered to investors, whilst introducing new digital applications to curb physical interaction wherever possible.
The vigorous investment facilitation, ironing out various bottlenecks that hampered the realisation of investments, and strengthening the digital transformation of BOI along with line Ministries and agencies were outlined as focus areas to ensure seamless delivery of services to enterprises.
It was pointed out that the BOI was contributing to over 65% of the country’s total exports, where 85% 80% were industrial exports. Since its inception, BOI has contributed $ 20.2 billion $ 19.8 billion in FDI inflows. Currently, over 1,500 enterprises are coming under the purview of the BOI, of which 280 projects are operating within its zones. Over 500,000 employees work under BOI-registered companies, out of which 140,000 are working in BOI operating zones.
“What we need now is to create positivity about Sri Lanka’s agility and resilience. At BOI, our collective focus is on bringing in new investments and facilitating the related licensing and operational activities to lure the best possible earnings to Sri Lanka and boost the gross domestic product (GDP) as well as its growth rate in the interest of everybody,” Weerakone said.
Sri Lanka’s economy has shown great resilience to internal and external pressures through the years and is once again on the path to recovery despite facing a global pandemic and a resultant economic crisis. The revenue recorded by a majority of the businesses in the country’s private sector and the interest shown by foreign businesses/investors are indicative of the growing opportunities in Sri Lanka. The country is working towards becoming a business hub in the South Asian region given the advantage of Sri Lanka’s geographical positioning in the Indian Ocean and the many trade agreements as well as trade concessions enjoyed by the country. The Board of Investment’s achievement of reaching the halfway mark in foreign investments target for the year is indicative of the growing business/investment opportunities in Sri Lanka and the growing business confidence among foreign businesses/investors on Sri Lanka.
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