Business Times

Budget: Growth with equality-urges Colombo business leader

Sri Lanka’s next budget in November, a local corporate leader, believes should not only create an environment for foreign investment to be more attractive than any other country in South East Asia (which the country should position itself) but also a strong-trickle down mechanism to ensure the benefit of investment flows to the bottom.

Hans Wijayasuriya, Director and Group Chief Executive Dialog Telekom, Sri Lanka’s biggest mobile phone operator, said the budget should create an environment that would be uniquely attractive to foreign investors; to be a port of call for investors that is not debated, or far above in preference to other similar destinations. “If the country wants to do things fast, there must be an almost uncompetitive bid (against its competitors),” he told the Business Times when asked for comments on the forthcoming November 22 budget.

“Acceration (of the economy) will happen only with this kind of approach because business growth will (anyway) happen. Our (Dialog-Axiata) shareholders are believers (they were investing here during the bad times and the good times) but for others – non believers and sceptics (investors), you need to come up with a new model,” he said, adding that Dialog has so far (and all during the war years) invested a cumulative figure of over $900 million over the past 15 years with more to come. “We’ll probably invest at the rate of $100 -$200 million a year over the next few years but we are the believers,” he said.

Dr Wijayasuriya said acceleration of the economy through foreign investment should be coupled with incentivising the domestic industry and creating a mechanism for this economic growth to filter down. “There should be a radical change in the lives of the majority of the population. It must go down in the economic pyramid – the benefits of this growth,” he noted.

“If domestic markets and domestic consumers are not connected to this foreign investment growth then we won’t get the same momentum. If these two things click – foreign capital inputs and domestic mobilisation of the population, growth can be well above 10 %,” he said.

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