ISSN: 1391 - 0531
Sunday, January 14, 2007
Vol. 41 - No 33

Britain hopes to sign protocol on investing in big Sri Lankan projects

From Neville de Silva in London

Sri Lanka and the United Kingdom are expected to ink a protocol on investment in mega infrastructure projects in Sri Lanka, official sources said.

Colombo will now prepare the general outline and refer it to London by March leaving the relevant ministries on both sides to thrash out the specific details, The Sunday Times was told. This follows discussions Enterprise Development and Investment Promotion Minister Rohitha Bogollagama had in London with Minister of State for Trade, Investment and Foreign Affairs Ian MacCartney, Minister in the Department for International Development Gareth Thomas and British Treasury officials.

Mr Bogollagama who was in London to attend the internationally known Wilton Park Conference on ‘Investing in peace’ also met with British officials to promote foreign direct investment in a wide range of development projects in which the British have shown an interest. “We are positioning Britain as a major target for foreign direct investment and private-public partnership arrangements,” he said.

One of the projects that has aroused British interest is the Colombo South Harbour Development that is expected to cost a massive US$1 billion. Apparently the UK was not aware of this project though expressions of interest had been called by the Sri Lanka Government until the discussions last week.

Mr Bogollagama told The Sunday Times that he expected to complete the protocol by March and send it off to London for follow up action through the respective diplomatic missions.

The minister said that besides the interest shown by Britain just now, he is expecting big Indian investments in a range of projects covering the oil sector, telecommunications and power.

“We will be holding the Indian Partnership Summit starting on January 16 where I will pitch Sri Lanka's attractions for Indian investors. We will be hosting 200 corporate captains for lunch in Bangalore the next day. Sri Lanka's profile has been lifted considerably and I have already talked personally to some of Indian's mega corporations such as Tata and Ashok Leyland,” he said. Minister Bogollagama said he is aiming at a foreign investment target of $1 billion this year, up from $600 million in 2006, of which he hoped India would contribute around 40 per cent.

On the subject of the coal-fired power plant for which an agreement was signed with India last month, Mr Bogollagama said the Government's intention was to locate it in Sampur which is at the mouth of Trincomalee harbour. Asked whether India has turned down Sampur as the location as speculation has it, he said that officially there has been no ‘negative communication ‘ from India.

Minister Bogollagama vigorously defended the BOI's quick approval of an application by the planned low budget airline Mihin Air for recognition as a BOI project.

“In fact I want to ask the chairman of BOI why he took 24 hours to approve. It should have been done immediately,” he said.
He said this was only an approval and subject to the airline getting the necessary clearance from the Civil Aviation authority and raising the necessary funds.

Asked whether it means that such expeditious approvals would be available to other prospective investors both local and foreign, he said it should.

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Copyright 2007 Wijeya Newspapers Ltd.Colombo. Sri Lanka.