‘A Lot of Homework To Do Before Sri Lanka Can Attract Enough FDIs’!

‘Sri Lanka has got a lot of homework to do before it can attract enough Foreign Direct Investments (FDIs) and become a vibrant economy in Asia, Ravi Dissanayake, Divisional Merchandising Manager, Vogue Tex Group of Companies told The Island Financial Review recently.

The Vogue Tex Group of Companies is a leading manufacturer and exporter specializing in up-market ladies-fashion garments catering to independent brands in Europe, US and the UK. The group consists of eight factories and a workforce of approximately 6.500 employees.

Ravi whose professional experience spans over 26 years feels that it’s still not too late for our lawmakers to show the world that we are prepared to mature as a nation by vigorously implementing Social, Legal, Economic, Political and Technological (SLEPT) advancements to boost the country’s Ease of Doing Business Rank and lure high-worth foreign investors to the country.

‘We all accept the fact that we must have enough FDIs in our project portfolio. For this, we need foreign investors to place their confidence in the stability and transparency of our administrative system. As things stand now, gaining their confidence would be no easy task for Sri Lanka as the government is in minority in Parliament. Further, the Rule of Law and media freedom have yet to be established, he said.

‘Potential investors essentially want to see political stability with a majority government ruling, a business environment free from corruption and access to updated technologies supported by necessary infrastructure.’

‘It’s pretty obvious that they will seek a sustainable business environment in which he or she can make a decent return on investment, along with the confidence that their assets will have legitimate protection through laws and regulations, on a level playing field.

‘Apart from all-important SLEPT factors, investors essentially consider the demographics of the country to see whether there would be a sufficient workforce to match with industry demands.

‘To ensure that there won’t be a shortage in the skilled labour market, higher education and vocational courses for various careers should be primed towards our growth-goals.

‘Skills in providing total solutions in Information and Communication Technology (ICT), Logistics, Construction, Shipping, Aviation, Manufacturing etc. must come from our own workforce”.

‘Removal of red tape in setting up a new business and operating it smoothly from day-one would be an uncompromising need of any recognized, high-value investor. Authorities, therefore, should focus on these areas if we are to substantially improve the image of Sri Lanka overseas as a real FDI-friendly country.

‘There should be no doubt such progressive moves will help Sri Lanka boost its brand-value not only as a reliable country for foreign investors, but also as a great leisure destination for high-spending tourists.

‘If such a state of affairs was made possible in the country through the implementation of SLEPT, a higher rate of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) could be achieved on a par with middle-income countries in the world, enabling a better standard of living for all Sri Lankans, Ravi said optimistically.

According to a report in August 2014, FDIs to Sri Lanka in the first half of 2014 reached 817 million US dollars, up 51 percent compared to Year 2013. Meanwhile, the full year of 2014 was expected to bring 2.5 billion US dollars. However, this target wasn’t met.

Sri Lanka’s youth population, aged 10-19, makes up some 15% of its 20 million population, according to a recent report.

Further, according to Index Mundi statistics Sri Lanka’s demographics for 2014 indicate, 15-24 years: 14.9% (male 1,651,901/female 1,606,465) 25-54 years: 42.1% (male 4,504,395/female 4,708,288).