Sri Lankan PM Gunawardena stresses need for further growth in trade with India
Sri Lankan Prime Minister Dinesh Gunawardena

Colombo: Sri Lankan Prime Minister Dinesh Gunawardena has met top executives from India and stressed the need for further growth in bilateral trade and increase Indian investments in new areas, where the techno knowhow from the neighbouring country could be introduced, according to his office.

Prime Minister Gunawardena made the remarks when the Indian CEO Forum-Sri Lanka (ICF) called on him at the Prime Minister’s Office on Thursday.

He thanked the Indian companies for their significant input and support to Sri Lanka’s economy by way of bringing substantial investments into the cash-strapped country, export earnings, employment generation, and contribution of treasury through direct and indirect taxes, the PM office said in a statement.

The ICF team led by its President T S Prakash stated that the member companies represent diverse industries from automobile, banking, cement, and FMCG to fuel, glass, hospitality, infrastructure, logistics, packaging, paint, and pharmaceuticals.

Referring to the Prime Minister’s proposal to venture into new areas, Prakash said the ICF has launched ‘Shine Lanka’ platform to promote trade and investments as well as tourism, which has a huge potential, the statement added.

Prime Minister Gunawardena shared with them the steps taken by the Lankan government to solve the unprecedented economic crisis faced by the country.

Sri Lanka has seen months of mass unrest over the worst economic crisis, with the government declaring bankruptcy in mid-April by refusing to honour its international debt. The worst economic crisis since 1948 led to severe shortages of fuel and other essentials in the country.

The Indian government assistance to Sri Lanka has reached almost USD 4 billion since January this year.

Sri Lanka needs about USD 5 billion in the next six months to cover basic necessities for its 22 million people, who have been struggling with long queues, worsening shortages and power cuts.

Airtel’s Ashish Nanda said that his company has access to over 65 per cent Indian households through mobile telephones and Sri Lanka could promote tourism in the vast Indian market using IT.

The Indian CEOs expressed appreciation over the initial successes made by Sri Lanka in its plans to recover from the economic crisis and emphasised the need to sustain the efforts. They also called for relaxation of some outdated regulations to enhance growth of trade and attract investments.

Prakash said the Indian companies make a valuable contribution to the economy by providing gainful employment to thousands, providing best-in-class management, technical skills, and contributing substantiality to Sri Lanka’s foreign exchange earnings despite the current economic challenges.

He said the objective of the ICF is to promote economic growth in Sri Lanka through Indian investment, safeguard and strengthen existing economic co-operation, foster new economic ties between India and Sri Lanka, and provide an open forum for business leaders of Indian origin employed with Indian multi-nationals and Sri Lankan business organisations in Sri Lanka, according to the statement.

The ICF delegation included past president Umesh Gautam, (Lanka Ashok Leyland PLC)., Vice President, Kishore Reddy, (Platinum Realty), Manoj Gupta, (Lanka IOC), Ashish Chandra, (Bharti Airtel), Harikrishnan Sundaram (Colombo West International Terminal), Girish Manjeswar (UltraTech Cement) and Anurag Sharma, (Reckitt).

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