INVESTOR FORUMS, CHAMBER OF COMMERCE, BOI, CENTRE FOR INVESTMENT.CUSTOMS AND IRD  – MANY PLAYERS AND NO GOALS ?
Posted on March 9th, 2016

Dr Sarath Obeysekera

I beg reader’s apology for writing this rather blunt opinion.

Sri Lanka is trying desperately lure our big brother –India to invest by almost chasing away the Silk Route pioneers China .We begged  UK,USA ,Austria ,Germany to help us out who just promise a meagre infusion of foreign funds to resurrect the  economy which is ailing due to over borrowing by the previous regime

Whoever’s fault, it is reality the that  we need to have a visionary thinking to revive the economy .We have to believe in foreign investment as our labour export can be retained to produce.

Public should be given the information about how much we have borrowed for each projects and for also for filling the budget deficit .

Then we can Beg” foreign governments whom we owe  to defer the loan payment for few years until we stand on our feet  or offer equity in these projects in lieu of loans .

Let us talk about investment promotion .

Last month we had an Invest in East forum and I met many Arabs and Indians who watched the belly dancing during the break and during evening of cocktail  ( sans liquor)

We still do not know how many of those visitors managed any investment in Sri Lanka with an heroic-overcoming the disastrous bureaucracy ,particularly in getting environment  and local authority approvals .

Then we had many world leaders visiting us the like milking partner” of our nation, Newzealand .

What did we get ?

Boosting business of Nestle and no new big investment.

They could have asked 10,000 Ha of land in the fertile East and promote farming

They could have brought investors ( white as we listen to them than browns) to invest

Now we heard about a Centre for Investment under the Minister dedicated for the task working in tandem with few other ministers in a committee chaired by the Prime Minister

Recently government announced that Chinese Built Bunkering Tank farm in Hambantota will be privatised .SLPA  issued a RFP to some  selected companies ( with no basis) and ask for the moon” with the investment proposal with a 100.000 $ bid bond .

Now they found that nobody may submit proposals to meet their demands and loan repayment scheme to China at exorbitant interest rates

Then there was another RFP calling investors to submit proposals for Garbage Disposal and Processing, and UDA asked for $50,000 as a non -refundable processing fee !! ( not a refundable bid bond)

All the prospective investors protested and they brought it down to $10,000

Who will bid?

Useless having all these forums like the ones currently going on right now with many foreign companies participating, unless we have a clear mind on how to implement the projects.

There may be big publicity, about various intentions but I doubt that nothing can be materialised.

UNLESS………..

An apex body is appointed and headed by the prime minister and able fiancé minister ( for execution ) and take each project one by one and order  state agencies expedite approvals .

All top managers of those agencies listed in the heading of this opinion should attend the coordination meeting with  answers

Few examples ……..

CEA is a big stumbling block ,UDA and Pradesheeya Sabha create retardation to the implementation and ,of course BOI playing the role of only  collecting information from investors regarding the amount of FDI ( foreign Direct Investment ) and boast every now and then .

Local Development Committees chaired by area MP’s and minister also keep blocking development proposals unless there is a vested interest, and Prime Minister’s committee should be able  to over-rule the objections

Recently an investor  got a land next to the harbour from GA on temporary lease and planned to haul large boats for inspection and minor maintenance, work and after struggling for 6 over months  CEA  issued a permit letter with a condition prohibiting us in applying any paint ( If they tell the investor  not to pollute air by releasing surface blasting of rust I do not mind ,but even applying paint by a brush is prohibited?? )

Another investor  also started a ship yard to build and maintain fishing vessels in an area of not more than 200 perches facing the harbour ,and a young over ambitious politician  publicly claimed that the private company was given the harbour with 40 acres of land .Intelligence officers came to investigate the press release and left claiming that the papers should publish such information after a proper  investigation.

There was another  small time investor who wanted to start a manufacturing plant some  electrical parts waiting an approval from SLLRDC,UDA  and Agrarian Services as the Land which bear many coconut trees of 10-15 years is called with a suffix Kumbura”-means paddy field  ( Almost all the lands in Ceylon have  KUMBURA’ as a suffix  during our Kingdom  days  when we were the granary of south Asia ! )

He brought this problem up at the Ease of doing Business Forum and UDA officer was adamant not to allow the investment.

Another Investor who wanted to organize a musical event  (which was in the mid of a controversy due to throwing of ladies upper underwear )such as the one performed by a singer from abroad, has been told by CMC to pay 4 million rupees in advance before even selling the tickets on the ground that previous organizers have not paid dues to CMC after the event.

We know that intentions of the Prime Minister and the Government are sincere and they want to develop the country.

But we need a vigorous implementation strategy and a mechanism like the programme the country had for developing 100 garment factories (JVP called it the jungy” (underwear) project  ,where President got involved directly during approval and implementation process  at that time and phenomenal results

I again apologize the administrators of the state organizations for being straight forward ,but they need to change their attitude  and support the nation in these difficult times

Dr Sarath Obeysekera

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