Business Times

BOI jumps on ‘Wonder of Asia’ bandwagon, FDI target over $1 billion

Sri Lanka’s Board of Investment (BOI) this week, finally announced changes in its structure – which has been reported widely by the Sunday and Business Times before last year’s budget – saying it has a new plan to boost foreign investment (FDI).

On a day when the re-structure caused pain and anxiety among the staff with a shrinking of the organisation’s floor space, the BOI in a statement on Monday said the new strategy is to raise FDI in Sri Lanka to the desired level of 4 to 5 % of GDP over the next three years.

The FDI this year, it said in an ambitious statement, is expected to reach the highest ever achieved by the country and will be well in excess of $1 billion. The claim comes amidst concerns that not a single application for investment has been approved since November.

The statement said that the changes aim to focus the BOI’s resources on priority investment projects most critical to national development – thereby accelerating job creation and income growth in all areas of the country.

“The expected outcomes are the speedy raising of income levels of all people of the country in a move to achieve the vision of being the ‘The emerging Wonder of Asia’,” it said. BOI Chairman Jayampathi Bandaranayake was quoted as saying that the BOI needs to take a lead in defining investment priorities and marketing these to investors, rather than just responding to proposals only. “And, once companies are ready to invest, the BOI needs to do everything possible to get their business started, by intervening directly on behalf of the investors with the relevant line agencies,” he said.

The core of the new organization structure will be Sector-focused Investor Relations Teams. These teams (together with special units to handle high-profile projects and regional initiatives) will cover all vital sectors of agriculture, manufacturing, services including tourism and infrastructure. Each team will work with the ministries and agencies in their sector to develop a joint sector strategy, identify investment priorities and promote these to target companies.

The same teams will act as relationship managers for all investors in their sector, from project evaluation to implementation to post-investment aftercare. In addition, an integrated Investor Solution Centre will be established to guide investors through the business start-up process. The Centre will assist investors with all aspects, including access to land, environmental and construction approvals, as well as legal, financial and labour requirements, bringing together disparate departments to better serve investor needs.

The existing industrial Zones of the BOI will transform as model zones with excellent infrastructure and modern and enlightened practices of labour relations, with concerns for the environment and sustainability addressed. The zone management will be given more independence and accountability to continuously improve the services that they provide to investors. The zone management will also be responsible for developing strategy for future development of additional zones around Sri Lanka, the statement said.

It’s headquarters at the World Trade Centre is also be reorganized, the agency said adding that all offices will be relocated to a single elevator bank, with dedicated floors for investors to meet with the Sector Teams and Investor Solution Centre. This will free up additional floor space which will be put to productive use, an issue which staff is complaining about.

As a result, the BOI is also expecting to make significant savings on overhead costs well in excess of Rs 100 million annually. These savings of public funds will be redirected into more productive uses, such as improvements in infrastructure, skills deelopment facilitation of youth to meet the emerging job opportunities, more targeted investor marketing, sector research, and human resource development of the staff of the BOI. There will be no compulsory job-cuts as a result of the reorganization, it said.

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