Domestic private sector investment is essential for Sri Lanka’s post COVID-19 economic growth – US Ambassador

(COLOMBO, LANKAPUVATH) – Post COVID-19 economic growth and development are a priority for the Sri Lankan government and domestic private sector investment is essential to achieve those goals, the U.S. Ambassador Aliana B. Teplitz said.

“We continue to believe that, again, a private sector-led approach is going to be really essential. We need the finances that come with the private sector and I would argue, also, the innovation and flexibility that come with the private sector, Ambassador Teplitz said speaking at the 2020 AmCham AGM on September 29 .

Referring to remarks made by President Gotabaya Rajapaksa in his speech to the UN that poverty alleviation through an agri-based production economy is a major goal of the government, Ambassador Teplitz said they have been working with AmCham to support these goals and with other businesses.

Teplitz pointed out that even with new economic possibilities opening up, there remain some structural issues that the government does need to address in order to attract more investment, not just Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) but domestic investment as well.

The Ambassador noted that high foreign investment levels are obviously a challenge going forward as low projected growth will be a challenge. Also the revenue losses due to essentially almost closure of the tourism sector and the tax cuts as well as impact of the pandemic on economy will be challenges.

“That means there’s a lot less with which the government, I think, has to work. Another reason why courting private sustainable high-quality investment has got to be a priority. There’s just not enough resources out there,” she emphasized.

Speaking of Sri Lanka’s World Bank Ease of Doing Business ranking, Ambassador Teplitz said she believes that the country can move up in the ranking from its 99th position. “This ambition is not a crazy one. It’s actually achievable, realistic,” she said. Stabilizing tax policy particularly for foreign investors but for domestic investors as well, simplifying the registration of property and improving access to credit are some of the issues that need to be addressed to improve the ease of doing business, the Ambassador highlighted.

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