(COLOMBO, LANKAPUVATH) –The SLFP is against the budget proposal to fully open up the shipping sector to foreign companies, Ports and Shipping Minister Mahinda Samarasinghe said.

Speaking at the Second Reading debate of Budget 2018 in Parliament yesterday, Samarasinghe said all Cabinet, Deputy and State Ministers representing the SLFP unanimously decided to oppose the budget proposal on lifting restrictions on foreign ownership of shipping and freight forwarding agencies.

“Since 1992, foreign ownership of shipping and freight forwarding agencies has been restricted to 40 percent by way of a Gazette notification. The balance of 60 percent is reserved for local companies.

There are over 500 shipping and freight forwarding agents in Sri Lanka earning about USD 800 million in trade. This money is for the Sri Lankan economy. These local companies have provided about 12,000 direct jobs and 100,000 indirect jobs. Therefore we request not to allow 100 percent foreign ownership at once,” he explained.

“Minister Mangala Samaraweera with this proposal intends to encourage foreign investment to make Sri Lanka the maritime hub. If the Government is going ahead with this proposal, we in the SLFP propose to impose a pre-qualification that full foreign ownership would be allowed only if the foreign companies agree to bring in an investment over USD 100 million,” he proposed.

He said President Maithripala Sirisena met with the representatives of local shipping and freight forwarding agencies on Tuesday and agreed to take up the matter with Minister Samaraweera. Minister Samaraweera has also agreed to meet those representatives on Friday.

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