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‘Sri Lanka’s pressing problems could escalate into security threats’-Doha Institute

Security has become the key issue in Sri Lank in the aftermath of Easter Sunday bombings, but if other pressing problems are ignored in lieu of ‘security’, they would themselves escalate into security threats, warned a visiting conflict expert from Doha Qatar -who is also a Fellow of the Brookings Institution- on 26 October in Colombo.

“Easter Sunday bombings really delayed progress in many aspects of Sri Lanka. If other pressing issues of communities are not addressed they can escalate into security threats in future” warned the Director of Center for Conflict and Humanitarian Studies of Doha Institute of Graduate Studies, Qatar Mr Sultan Barakat on 26 October.  Leading an 11-country student delegation from his Center, Director Barakat (who is also a Senior Fellow of the Brookings Institution) was meeting Sri Lanka’s Minister of Industry, Commerce, Resettlement of Protracted Displaced Persons, Cooperative Development, Skills Development & Vocational Training (ICTPDPCDSDVT) Rishad Bathiudeen on 26 October at the Ministry, Colombo 3.  The visiting student delegation was meeting Minister Bathiudeen at the end of their ten day Sri Lanka field tour during which they spoke to local conflict and resettlement experts, and visited the Northern areas and met individuals who lived through the conflict. Director Barakat was also a prominent personality in Doha’s two-day peace talks (concluded early July 2019) to end the Afghanistan war. The Doha talks were sponsored by Qatar and Germany.

“By definition this student delegation is from Muslim countries. But in this academic exercise, we are not only interested in problems of Muslims in Sri Lanka but also interested in a wide range of issues faced by all communities here-the displacement of Tamil communities, return of them, the economic reconstruction opportunities, the FDI investments coming to Sri Lanka etc-we are interested in the whole, comprehensive picture in this academic exercise. We come here to learn from the Sri Lankan experience of dealing with a conflict and Internally Displaced Students (IDPs). We see that Sri Lanka has lots of experience in reconstruction and reconciliation since 2009. We can learn from this experience and also give our inputs to Sri Lanka. We’d like to think that just visiting those IDP communities here will give the IDPs the energy for resettlement and reconciliation” said Director Barakat and warned: “We feel that Easter Sunday Bombings really delayed progress in many aspects of Sri Lanka including in displaceds’ return to lands and resettlement since everybody is now concerned about security first. “Security first’ may not be the best approach because there are other, more pressing needs of local communities and if they are not addressed they can escalate into security threats in future.” Minster Bathiudeen welcomed Director Barakat’s comments and listened to the Sri Lankan experiences of the visiting students. “Thanks to speedy action by the Sri Lankan government, people and the security forces, the suspects of Easter Sunday bombings were apprehended immediately. In fact, the role of our Muslim community in assisting the security forces to identify remaining extremists was commendable, and helped in ending the local tensions that could have been devastating to us if it was not controlled in that way. I too realise that ignoring pressing issues of communities can lead to later conflicts. Therefore as the Sri Lankan Minister for Resettlement of Protracted IDPs, I have instituted a Resettlement Task Force under my Ministry to look into protracted IDP issues in the country and we have made progress since we commenced work through this Task Force.”   

ACMC steps in to defend SLMC leader Hakeem

The All Ceylon Makkal Congress (ACMC) threw its support behind Rauff Hakeem, Leader of Sri Lanka Muslim Cogress (SLMC) on 20 October.

Recent allegations against the Leader of SLMC Hakeem are baseless, insisted ACMC.

“We vehemently condemn such false allegations. We will not allow Hakeem, to be falsely accused in this way” announced the Leader of ACMC, Vanni District MP and Minister of Industry, Commerce, Resettlement of Protracted Displaced Persons, Cooperative Development, Skills Development and Vocational Training Rishad Bathiudeen on 20 October.

Addressing an election campaign rally in Sammanthurai in support of Presidential Candidate Sajith Premadasa, and defending SLMC’s Hakem, ACMC Leader Bathiudeen said: “These accusations against SLMC Leader Hakeem are based on an old video. The allegations are false and made to tarnish his public image. We strongly condemn such false allegations. We are also ready to forgo positions and benefits to ensure the safety of our community. This election is a battle about justice and injustice. Therefore support Sajith Premadasa’s win” ACMC Leader Bathiudeen said.

More than 1000 people in Sammanthurai area took part in ACMC’s 20 October campaign rally.

Sri Lanka-Canada trade surges on rising exports

Though Sri Lanka – Canada bilateral trade is modest, surging Lankan exports to Canada could turn it around. “Annual Canada-Sri Lanka trade values at present show an unexploited trade potential that needs to be explored” said Minister of Industry, Commerce, Resettlement of Protracted Displaced Persons, Cooperative Development, Skills Development & Vocational Training (ICTPDPCDSDVT) Rishad Bathiudeen to High Commissioner of Canada to Sri Lanka David McKinnon while hosting him for a courtesy call on 26 September.  

Minister Bathiudeen and High Commissioner McKinnon discussed Sri Lanka and Canada’s shared desire to continue to expand bilateral trade and commercial ties. According to the Department of Commerce of Sri Lanka, the total Canada-Sri Lanka trade in 2018 stood at US $ 436 Mn, a near 10% increase from the previous year.  

Sri Lankan garment exports to Canada are on the rise, and rubber and other by-products such as tyres, coconuts and sea food are also rapidly diversifying the export product mix. A variety of high-quality Canadian products, notably wheat and lentils, make their way to households across the country, and contribute to the diversification of imports to Sri Lanka. Although modest, some notable Sri Lanka-Canada collaboration includes high-tech production facilities for garments, agriculture value addition such as plant extraction and essences, sea food processing, and ICT partnerships. Other Canadian trade connections to Sri Lanka include sophisticated building technologies, engineering, architecture, financial services, and clean technology.

Sri Lanka’s educated and resilient population, fantastic natural attributes and strategic location astride major trade routes in the fastest growing region in the world, generate enormous potential for bilateral commercial interests and to achieve sustainable economic and social prosperity for Sri Lankans and Canadians.

Sri Lanka business registrations can now be done from home

Opening a new chapter in Sri Lanka’s private sector development, incorporation of a new company in Sri Lanka is now possible from the comfort of one’s own home. Meanwhile, the Department of Registrar of Companies too has reported an increase in revenues.

“Name reservation of companies could be obtained online. Company registrations and incorporations could be done online and there is no need for physical attendance at the Department of Registrar of Companies” said the Minister of Industry, Commerce, Resettlement of Protracted Displaced Persons, Cooperative Development, Skills Development & Vocational Training Rishad Bathiudeen on 8 October in Parliament. Minister Bathiudeen was addressing the House on 8 October on regulations made by him to establish Regulations under the Public Contract Act moved by him in Parliament. The regulations were made with the concurrence of HE President under Section 36 of the Public Contracts Act No. 3 of 1987, and the regulations published in the Gazette Extraordinary No. 508/7 of 2 June 1988 last amended by the Gazette Extraordinary No. 1773/36 of 30 August 2012 further amended and published in the Gazette Extraordinary No. 2055/18 of 24 January 2018. Accordingly, fees payable (VAT excluded) on four types of contracts have been amended. In that, the new fee of Rs 2000 for application for registration as an agent, sub-agent, representative or nominee for or on behalf of a tenderer, the new fee of Rs 10000 for application for registration of a public contract, the new fee of Rs 2000 for application for renewal of a registration and the new fee of Rs 10000 for application for re-registration of a public contract.

Minister Bathiudeen added: “It can be easily done at home if one has a computer with internet facilities. Societies registrations can be done online since January 2019. Registration of auditors too can be done online. Card payments are accepted. Overseas companies and off shore companies can be registered online. The Department of Registrar of Companies plays a key role of an economy of the country. Except for the salaries of officials other expenses related the department are met through the company fund. In 2017 the Department of Registrar of Companies earned a revenue of about Rs 600 million and 2018 it is Rs 664 million.”

In the World Bank’s 2019 Doing Business index, Sri Lanka has been ranked 100 among 190 countries. The “Starting a Business Indicator” of Ease of Doing Business rankings for Sri Lanka (at 87.87 out of 100) showed the country ranked at second in South Asia just after Maldives (at 89.17). South Asian regional average for Starting a Business Indicator is 85.44. The 2018 revenues of the Department of Registrar of Companies increased by 11% (from 2017) to Rs 664 Mn.

Sri Lanka craft sector wins free insurance cover

Sri Lanka has activated the long awaited free insurance facility to its historic crafts and handicrafts sectors on 6 October. Sri Lanka announced it’s also keen on introducing hi-tech design tools to its craftsmen so that their intricate work could garner better global attention.

“Very soon there will be demands by our craft sector to start work with latest technological advancements” said Sri Lanka’s Minister of Industry, Commerce, Resettlement of Protracted Displaced Persons, Cooperative Development, Skills Development & Vocational Training (ICTPDPCDSDVT) Rishad Bathiudeen on 6 October in Colombo. Minister Bathiudeen was addressing the Shilpa Abhimani 2019 Presidential Handicrafts Award Ceremony by the National Crafts Council (NCC) under his Ministry held at BMICH. He was joined by his State Minister Buddhika Pathirana, President of the World Crafts Council-Asia Pacific Region (WCC-AP) Ms Ghada Hijjawi Qaddumi, NCC Chairperson Heshani Bogollagma, HE Australian High Commissioner to Sri Lanka David Holly, (HE) Iranian Ambassador to Sri Lanka Mohammad Zaeri Amirani, craftsmen and artists from Sri Lanka, Thailand, India, Oman, Iran, Bangladesh, and Nepal, Lankan craft winners and expo visitors. HE U.S. Ambassador to Sri Lanka and Maldives Ms Alaina B. Teplitz also toured the expo stalls of Shilpa Abhimani 2019 on 6 September. Many artists and craftsmen received awards for their outstanding creations at this event. “After years of work, we finally activated the free insurance scheme “Shilpa Suraksha” for local craftsmen, beginning this year. In phase I of this project, annually 5000 Lankan craftsmen will receive free insurance cover. This is the first time in Sri Lanka’s history that our craftsmen get insurance cover, that too free of charge. We thank HE President Maithripala Sirisena for his initiatives to make this long-standing demand by the craft sector a success” said Minister Bathiudeen, and added: “Today’s event by NCC showcases the collective and creative side of Sri Lanka’s craftsmen who are involved in this important sector for centuries. There are more than 20000 registered Sri Lankan craftsmen with the NCC. Crafts and designs are a very competitive sector. It is increasingly market driven. Therefore it is important for our craftsmen to be up to date in their work and we need to support them here. With the support of the NCC they are continuously trying to bring out new designs and creations. We can introduce our promising and award winning craftsmen to new technologies which are becoming part of craft design work across the world. Very soon there will be demands by our craft sector to start work with latest technological advancements. Such new technologies, as 3D printing and laser operated design setups can help our craftsmen to go global much faster. With award ceremonies such as the Shilpa Abhimani, I have no doubts that our historic craftsmen will have better market opportunities and a promising future.”

Sri Lanka Insurance Corporation (SLIC) is the provider of the free “Shilpa Suraksha” insurance cover to Sri Lankan craftsmen.

The NCC which tries to introduce new designs and creations to the crafts sector, has also began work to decentralize its activities. A new project commenced to establish District Craft Councils (DCCs) in Sri Lanka for the first time in NCC’s 35 year history. Sri Lanka’s arts, crafts, and handicraft traditions widely differ from region to region, span across many sub-sectors and spring from diverse sources–including pottery, wood-carvings, mural creations, lacquer painting, metal works and jewellery making.

UNESCO warns time running out for Sri Lanka’s prized heritage

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) expressed its interest to help secure Sri Lanka’s Intangible Cultural Heritage  (ICH) on 26 September, while issuing a warning that Sri Lanka is fast losing the prized practices as they ‘are fading away rapidly.’

“There is extraordinary value to Sri Lanka’s Intangible Cultural Heritage. With all your unique rites and traditions, performing arts, weaving practices and much more, you are sitting on a gold mine and possibilities are endless” said Eric Falt, Director and UNESCO Representative to Bhutan, India, Maldives and Sri Lanka on 26 September. Visiting Director Falt was addressing the Minister of Industry, Commerce, Resettlement of Protracted Displaced Persons, Cooperative Development, Skills Development & Vocational Training (ICTPDPCDSDVT) Rishad Bathiudeen on 26 September in Colombo joined by Himali Jinadasa, UNESCO Focal Point – Sri Lanka, R.D.S.Kumararatne the Director General of Tertiary and Vocational Education Commission, the Director General of the University of Vocational Technology Nilmini Diyabedanage and Heshani Bogollagama, Chairman of the National Craft Council.

Explaining UNESCO’s previous successful efforts in ICH, the visiting Director Falt discussed their widely reported work in West Bengal, where cultural heritage practices sheltered in remote villages were transformed by UNESCO. His message was to call Sri Lanka to adopt the processes to secure local ICH practices.

“Aside from the world heritage sites, the ICH practices here are not fully known and promoted.  Sri Lanka itself has 100s of years of traditions” said Director Falt and added: “Many of these traditions are fading and sadly, we don’t even know all of them. A major mapping exercise of Lankan ICH practices is needed, followed by field mapping of all intangible practice locations and traditions here.  Therafter, ICH practices have to be inventoried, eco systems to be identified and promoted and economic livelihoods of the communities to be transformed.

 “What is important is that the window for securing ICH practices here is very short” Falt said. “UNESCO can help identify Sri Lankan ICH”. He gave as an example the case of Bangali Patachitra scroll paintings. The ancient art of Patachitra and its techniques are now promoted by UNESCO. What’s even more important is that the income of Patachitra artists have multiplied eight-fold after UNESCO’s efforts.

UNESCO’s work in West Bengal was so successful that we are now franchising the model to Rajasthan. “In the same way, UNESCO would be glad to partner in securing Sri Lankan ICH. We will help you provide value for money. We need to ensure that tourists visit these heritage locations since tourism is an economic force in Sri Lanka-and at the same time give better recognition for these rural artists so that the livelihood of these people are transformed. There’s an enormous area to be covered in Sri Lanka-from folk-arts to stilt-fishing. But there is no time to lose. The high speed of modernization can erase this opportunity which appears to be fading away very fast.”

Minister Bathiudeen welcomed Director Falt’s suggestions. “I welcome UNESCO’s assistance which is encouraging” he said and added:  “Sri Lanka has 250 villages registered as ‘craft villages.’ 30000 craftsmen are also registered under my Ministry. We need to perform a National Crafts Mapping but we do not have the expertise. Each Province has its own arts and craft traditions but due to the lack of brand identity for them, our traditional craftsmen in Provinces do not have sufficient income. In this background, I welcome UNESCO’s assistance which is encouraging. Many well-known local arts and craft traditions such as the Kandy Pageant do not have a way to safeguard them. The TVET mechanism under my Ministry is trying to develop a program to sustain these practices. We are aiming to identify specific areas such as drumming, regional dance styles etc so that an inventory could be set up.”  

Sri Lanka ratified the 2003 ‘UNESCO Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage’ Convention on 21 April 2008. Patachitra is an ancient storytelling art form of West Bengal and Orisha dating back to 13 century and its widely popular even today. It uses paints and colors made from plants for drawing and uses religious deities and nature as its muses.

South Korea boosts funding for Ocean University by massive 60%

The initial outlay on Sri Lanka’s largest vocational skilling project announced on 28 August has now increased by a huge 60% from its first value. “Due to some important revisions and re-assessments on ground, the project value has been boosted by another US $ 30 Mn to total at US $ 80 Mn. This is a very large project” announced Daekyoo Park, the Country Director of Korea Exim Bank EDCF Colombo Office on 26 September. Country Director Park, who was leading his team to discuss about various cooperation projects by South Korea in Sri Lanka, was addressing the Sri Lankan Minister of Industry, Commerce, Resettlement of Protracted Displaced Persons, Cooperative Development, Skills Development & Vocational Training (ICTPDPCDSDVT) Rishad Bathiudeen during the review meeting held at Colombo’s Industry and Commerce Ministry on 26 September.

Minister Bathiudeen, as the Sri Lankan Minister of Skills Development & Vocational Training, first announced the plan to set up a fully-fledged Ocean University in Sri Lanka with Korean support on 21 August, when he addressed the launch of the modernised Gampaha Technical College (GTC) -also supported by South Korea- under his Ministry. “The Ocean University we have at present is not a complete university. We are planning to set up a fully-fledged Ocean University at a cost of US $ 50 Mn. We will be able to start work on it in the coming weeks” Minister Bathiudeen said on 28 August.

At the 26 September meeting, Korea Eximbank Country Director Park revealed: “The Draft Masterplan that was formulated with stakeholders in September 2018, will be finalised and be ready very soon. The basic structures and course designs of the Ocean University have also been agreed upon. The location of this new University will be at Mattakkuliya.  Another Ocean Training facility is also located at present in Mattakuliya just a few blocks away from this chosen land but the main University will be constructed on the best location for it-that is, at the estuary of Kelani River in Mattakkuliya. Due to some important revisions and re-assessments on ground, the project value has been boosted by another US $ 30 Mn to total at US $ 80 Mn (Sri Lanka Rs 14.5 Billion!). This is a very large project.”

Minister Bathiudeen thanked Korean team for expanding the project and called for support to speed it. “We thank the people of South Korea and Korea Eximbank for the support extended to Sri Lanka’s TVET sector. I readily agree that this is one of the biggest grant projects that Sri Lanka received. I plan to set up two sub centres of this Ocean University-in Puttalam and Mannar. The sub-centres will help more Lankan youth to enrol in this new skilling. I request Exim bank support for this expansion too. As for the main University, the project feasibility study on Sri Lanka’s side has been finalised and we await for the go-ahead from South Korean project unit” said Minister Bathiudeen.

Support by South Korea for Lankan TVET sector has shown a steady increase in recent years.

The Gampaha GTC has been modernised by US $4.5 Mn South Korean loan funding which is the second phase of the two phase US $26 Mn overall project funded by South Korea. The first phase of this Project was the Korea-Sri Lanka National Vocational Training Institute launched by Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe on 21 August in Orugodawatte. At the launch of 28 August GTC, (HE) South Korean Ambassador Heon Lee said: ”This project, supported by Economic Development Cooperation Fund (EDCF) of South Korea, is an effort to share Korea’s development experience with Sri Lanka…We shall provide high quality vocational training, leading to poverty reduction, the primary aim of Sustainable Development Goals.”

India opens support to Sri Lankan SMEs

One of world’s most dynamic SME and MSME collectives has come forward to support Sri Lankan MSMEs to fulfil its long cherished dream of going global. The offer, made to Lankan SMEs for the first time in its history, also includes free marketing and tech know-how assistance for Lankan SMEs. “Our Prime Minister HE Narendra Modi wants to increase Indian MSME’s contribution to GDP in a big way. If we support Lankan SMEs, the Lankan sector in turn will supply us and support us too. But we are not talking of support to Sri Lankan SMEs for entering only Indian markets but we are ready to support them to go global, at no costs” said Rajnish Goenka, influential Founder Chairman of India’s MSME Development Forum (IMSME-DF) the first integrated and Unified Platform for the huge Indian MSME sector. Chairman Goenka was addressing Sri Lankan Minister of Industry, Commerce, Resettlement of Protracted Displaced Persons, Cooperative Development, Skills Development & Vocational Training (ICTPDPCDSDVT) Rishad Bathiudeen on 17 September in Colombo during his courtesy call on Minister Bathiudeen. Despite being born to an affluent Indian freedom fighters’ family, Chairman Goenka himself is a proven entrepreneur, having created a successful and a vast business empire that now spans beyond India-to Dubai, China, and the USA. He is a member of the Indian National Board of Ministry of MSME and was also the National Convenor of the ruling Bhartiya Janatha Party (BJP)’s Micro and Small Industries Cell during 2014.

“We MSME-DF are working in tandem with Indian government. We are ready to extend support for marketing, promotion and technology for Sri Lankan SMEs. We are not able to give financial support since there is a huge demand by Indian MSMEs for that. We can provide a good platform for Lankan SMEs. My discussions with Minister Bathiudeen and some local entrepreneurs shown that Sri Lankan SMEs and MSMEs are faced with three types of issues-in finance, marketing and technology. We will support marketing and technology aspects. For example I met Lankan entrepreneurs in Colombo who developed medical equipment related innovations but are unable to find any market opportunities here. We shall provide such Lankan SMEs and innovators a new market in India” said Chairman Goenka and added: “The MSME-DF not only has a strong presence in Indian market, but also has 35 overseas branches in overseas including in USA, Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Zimbabwe, Uzbekistan, etc. MSME-DF has 50000 Indian SMEs as members, 500,000 affiliated Indian SMEs and a database of another two-million SMEs. We also serve Indian micro enterprises. As for tech support, it depends on the type of request made by Lankan SMEs. India is the cheapest technology hub in the world. Even many US, French satellites are now launched in India since the costs are very low-only one sixth of the cost in comparison to their countries. Similarly many small technologies that can be used by Lankan SMEs could be transferred on a win-win basis. We are ready facilitate B2B matchmaking for Lankan SMEs with our MSME sector and even with our corporates- totally free. Even if Lankan government agencies have a problem in B2B connectivity with Indian SMEs, we will arrange that free of charge since we are supported by Indian government. Our Prime Minister HE Narendra Modi wants to increase Indian MSME’s contribution to GDP and economy in a big way. If we support Lankan SMEs, the Lankan sector in turn will supply us and support us too. But we are not talking of support to Sri Lankan SMEs for entering only Indian markets but we are ready to support them to go global, at no costs by improving quality, and preferably on a win-win basis.”

Minister Bathiudeen warmly welcomed Chairman Goenka’s proposals and thanked him. “India has helped us in many ways and our bilateral cooperation dates back to centuries” he said and added: “Sri Lanka has a little more than one million registered SMEs and together with micro enterprises and unregistered SMEs, they are a major contributor to our GDP.  The first national SME Policy of Sri Lanka has been introduced by NEDA under me. Still, financing and micro credit, marketing, innovation, technology and incubation are major hurdles and areas that need support for our SMEs. Therefore I believe that Indian MSME-DF’s assistance would be invaluable to us. I am sure that our SMEs shall welcome such support including B2B links immediately and also like to partner with Indian SMEs for win-win projects. I shall instruct my Ministry officials and SME agencies under me to move forward on your suggestions.”

India’s dynamic MSME sector is over 46 million units and is one of the largest such sectors in the world, taking 29% of Indian GDP (both SMEs and MSMEs -US $ 783 Billion of $ 2.7 trillion Indian GDP, in 2018). India aims to increase MSME’s contribution to GDP to 50% in the next five years under its US $ 5 trillion GDP target.

First hi-tech training centre in Sri Lanka North launched

The first hi-tech vocational training centre in Sri Lanka’s Northern Province was launched on 18 September. The US $ 7.6 Mn new facility in Ariya Nagar, Kilinochchi gives Northern youth the sought-after, hi-tech NVQ level course offerings such as IT, electronics and automotive mechanics for the first time. “We thank the German people and GIZ Sri Lanka office for this support. Also the state of art equipment valued at Rs 350 Million donated by the Stassen Group which is led by Chairman Harry Jayawardana shall contribute immensely to enhance the industry–oriented skills of the youth here. This project shows the close relationship and partnership between the industry and TVET sector” said the Minister of Industry, Commerce, Resettlement of Protracted Displaced Persons, Cooperative Development, Skills Development & Vocational Training (ICTPDPCDSDVT) Rishad Bathiudeen in Ariya Nagar, Kilinochchi on 18 September. Minister Bathiudeen was joined at the Kilinochchi National Level Vocational Training Centre (KNLVTC) launch by Minister of Finance and Mass Media Mangala Samaraweera, GIZ Sri Lanka Country Director Christiane Einfeldt, HE German Ambassador to Sri Lanka Joern Rohde and officials of National Apprentice and Industrial Training Authority (NAITA) under Minister Bathiudeen.

KNLVTC, while being the first non-University level, hi-tech TVET training centre in North, is also  the second National Vocational Training Centre in Sri Lanka set up with the support of the German Government. It fills the void of a National Vocational Training Institute in the Northern and Eastern Provinces for the first time. KNLVTC is done in collaboration with NAITA operating under Minister Bathiudeen. The investment for KNLVTC was  US $ 7.67 Mn (SL Rs 1.3 Bn). The German KWF Bank provided the financial support. The Sri Lanka German Training Institute (SLGTI) was declared opened by HE President Maithripala Sirisena on 17 June 2016. SLGTI is NAITA’s only institute conducting NVQ level 5 and 6 courses.

“Though this centre is located in Killinochchi at present, the students studying here are not only from the Northern and Eastern but also from other districts in the country. This institute is multi-disciplinary and multi ethnic in its composition. We thank the German people and GIZ Sri Lanka office for this support. This initiative shows the close relationship and partnership between the industry and TVET sector” Minister Bathiudeen added.

The campus spreads over 15 acres, and consists of modern laboratories, libraries, computer centers, lecture halls and student hostels and the construction of a new hostel complex for 400 students will begin  soon with the assistance of the Skills Sector Development Project (SSDP) at a cost of Rs 400 million.

The donation of the equipment to KNLVTC, is a result of the partnership agreement between the Stassen Group and GIZ on behalf of the Federal Ministry of Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ).

Indian industrialists vie for Sri Lanka projects

Indian industrial investors are preparing for major investment moves in Sri Lankan projects-not only on mega-infrastructure ventures but even on smaller outlays. India’s powerful Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) has, for the first time, expressed its new investment and funding push on Sri Lankan infrastructure projects on 17 September. “Sri Lanka is becoming a preferred destination for Indian investors due to its similar climate and close proximity to India. We are also keen on showcasing Indian expertise in Sri Lanka through large scale projects” said Praful Kumar Mutha (Director-Mohan Mutha Exports Ltd, Chennai) who was leading a Confederation of Indian Industry (CII)’s 10 member business delegation to Sri Lanka. Director Praful Kumar was meeting the Minister of Industry, Commerce, Resettlement of Protracted Displaced Persons, Cooperative Development, Skills Development & Vocational Training (ICTPDPCDSDVT) Rishad Bathiudeen on 17 September joined by the members of his delegation to Colombo. The Industry-led and industry-managed CII is India’s second largest industry chamber with more than 9100 direct and over 300000 indirect membership of firms from 291 various national and regional bodies (private and public sectors, SMEs to multi nationals).  CII is no stranger to Sri Lanka and its previous teams visiting Colombo met Minister Bathiudeen on several occasions.

“We are interested in securing large scale projects in Sri Lanka such as refineries, IT parks, desalinisation plants, pharmaceutical zones, container terminals and vocational training facilities. Many mechanisms are available in India for funding of such large projects overseas. We at CII can be a facilitator for such project funding in Sri Lanka as well. We can move in with funding from Indian Exim Bank. The Buyers’ Credit (BC) project funding mechanism of Indian Exim Bank is one such way” said Director Praful Kumar, and added: “Such funds are for Indian exporters entering into new foreign markets where deferred credit on medium or long term basis is more practical. Interest rates are also very low at LIBOR plus 1.25% (annual) for 8 years! We are not talking about funding that comes through the usual Line of Credit Agreement through which such projects as upgrading Sri Lankan railways have been taking place. In Buyers’ Credit, project execution is done by an Indian firm called the project exporter.  Even though the fund recipient is an Indian company, the firms in the target country too benefit immensely. 75% of the material for the project needs to come from the Indian firm, but Sri Lankan contractors can supply the labour -and also the 25% materials in the BC project. Any kind of project can be done on BC funds in Sri Lanka. Usually the Indian Firm’s foreign partner is the government of that country or a government owned institution. Even an independent local partner is allowed. However, if such local project partner is not part of the government of Sri Lanka, then India Exim bank requires a sovereign guarantee from the Lankan government on behalf of the independent party. Therefore these projects are not India-SL joint ventures but 100% Indian company owned projects. The benefit of this is that there is no limit for the dollar value of the project-it could be a low US $ one million or high US $ 500 million-or much more. The US $398 Mn project commenced in Ghana recently under BC by the Indian Exim bank and the project on a new road in Maldives at US $20 Mn are examples. Average project length is three years and it takes about three to six months for initial background work. High-value projects such as ports, bridges, highways, and IT parks are a good match for BC projects. Even though revenue generating projects are preferred for most BC projects, even a social non-profit projects without revenues, too are possible. We can facilitate top Indian multinationals such as Reliance, Wipro, Tata, Aditya Birla etc to Sri Lanka in this if the projects are large scale.”

Meanwhile, since March 2018, Sri Lanka has been placed in the Positive List of Countries for Buyer’s Credit under India’s National Export Insurance Account (NEIA) by India’s Export Credit Guarantee Corporation (ECGC). 80 countries have been graded in this list. Sri Lanka earned a place in the “Second positive group” (called A2) out of seven grades (other grades are A1, B1, B2, C1, C2 and D). The A2 ranking (out of all the seven) is an attractive positioning for Indian investors eager to enter Sri Lanka.

Minister Bathiudeen welcomed CII’s interest to take on large projects in Sri Lanka, and said: “The presence of Indian companies in Sri Lanka have been longstanding. India is the fourth largest FDI provider to Sri Lanka in 2005-2017. The Unity government welcomes Indian FDI to Sri Lanka and on behalf of it I and my Ministry extend our fullest support to investors from India including CII members. Just as Indian investors are entering Sri Lanka, more and more Lankan firms too are investing in India.”

India is one of 28 countries that Sri Lanka has signed a Bilateral Investment Promotion and Protection Treaty with. According to Sri Lanka Board of Investment, India is the fourth largest FDI provider to Sri Lanka in 2005-2017 followed by China, Malaysia and Hon Kong. The cumulative Indian investment in Sri Lanka in 2005-2017 totalled US $ 1.16 Bn. The main investment sectors that Indian FDIs in are tourism & hotels, petroleum-retail, manufacturing, real estate, telecommunication, banking and financial services. Among investments by Sri Lankan companies in India are apparel (Brandix, MAS holdings), furniture (Damro), energy (LTL Holdings), and in freight servicing and logistics (DRH Logistics and Freight Links International).

On September 17, Minister Bathiudeen also instructed his officials to promptly coordinate on CII’s future inquiries on possible projects under his Ministry and under other government offices.