President keen to foster an investment-friendly environment in the country – MP
The Chairman of the Select Committee of Parliament to study the practical problems and difficulties that have arisen in relation to enhancing the rank in the Ease of Doing Business Index in Sri Lanka and make its proposals and recommendations, SLPP MP Madhura Vithanage stated that President Ranil Wickremesinghe has provided guidance and support for the implementation of numerous programmes aimed at creating a conducive environment for investment in the country.
MP Withanage made these remarks during the Media Conference held at the Presidential Media Centre (PMD) on the theme ‘Collective path to a stable country’ yesterday (30). He highlighted the Government’s plan to introduce a business facilitation law aimed at removing barriers for investors.
Additionally, Withanage emphasized that the bureaucratic hurdles in promoting investment and business should be addressed by adopting a public service management policy rather than traditional administration methods.
He said that it is expected to bring a law to facilitate business in the country by removing the barriers for investors. Withanage expressed his concern about Sri Lanka’s current position at the 99th place in the business facilities improvement index, which is considered a significant global indicator. He pointed out that specific recommendations, issues arising from the relationship between the public and private sectors, and outdated legal regulations are contributing factors to this situation.
Acknowledging the support of President Ranil Wickremesinghe, Withanage stated that they have been granted full freedom to address these challenges and provide necessary solutions. He also mentioned the active involvement of a presidential task force dedicated to this matter. The Parliament’s recommendations will be promptly implemented by the task force, both in the short term and with a focus on medium and long-term solutions.
The President has issued directives to promptly implement various programs aimed at streamlining business operations in the country. These programs entail the establishment of a unified system for registering companies, maintaining comprehensive data and information systems for each company, and ensuring that all relevant information is centralized in a single data system. This strategic approach seeks to enhance efficiency, transparency, and accessibility in the business environment, fostering a more conducive atmosphere for investment and economic growth.
Indeed, the implementation of a business facilitation law is crucial to achieving the desired goals and targets. Without such a legal framework, it becomes challenging to streamline and expedite business processes, hindering the overall progress.
Additionally, to attract investors and facilitate their decision-making, having a comprehensive and accessible data system is essential. Currently, Sri Lanka lacks a centralized land information bank that provides detailed insights into suitable investment opportunities in specific fields. For instance, in India, there is a land information bank that helps investors identify areas suitable for solar projects and industrial investments. Adopting a similar program in Sri Lanka would greatly benefit potential investors and enhance the country’s appeal as an investment destination. By establishing such a system, investors will have access to valuable information, enabling them to make well-informed decisions and contributing to the country’’s economic growth.
The current situation where businesses and investments require approvals from multiple government agencies can lead to duplication of efforts and unnecessary delays.
This bureaucratic complexity can be a significant deterrent for potential investors and hinder the ease of doing business in the country. To address this issue, it is essential to streamline and centralize the approval process, ensuring that relevant government agencies collaborate efficiently and avoid redundant procedures. Creating a unified and coordinated approach will not only expedite the approval process but also improve transparency and accountability.
The absence of an investor-friendly legal system in our country is a significant concern. While the establishment of Commercial High Courts by the previous government aimed to provide speedy solutions to commercial issues, it has not fully met the expected need, leaving investors facing challenges. Urgent measures are required to address this issue and promote a more conducive environment for investments.
The lack of conductors is a significant issue for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). To address this concern, the Ministry of Finance, the Central Bank, and the Ministry of Industry are collaboratively working on a solution, as per the President’s instructions to take immediate action. Proposals have been submitted to categorize institutions with a turnover of Rs.750 million to Rs.1 billion under small and medium-scale businesses, with approval expected in the future.
Additionally, the presence of a powerful bureaucracy is hindering the creation of a favourable investment environment. Many government officials possess an administrative mindset rather than a management mindset. To rectify this, there is a pressing need for public officials to be well-informed about entrepreneurship, and a shift towards a management-oriented public service is necessary.
A notable recent example in this context is the 2018 project from a world-renowned cable car company based in Europe. They conducted extensive studies and evaluated multiple locations in Sri Lanka before proposing the establishment of a 3.95 km cable car destination connecting Nanu Oya, Kikiliyamanna, and Gregory Lake.
In 2021, the Tourism Development Authority and the Urban Development Authority submitted a cabinet paper and obtained approval for the cable car project from 15 relevant institutions. Nepal and Dominica received this project simultaneously with Sri Lanka. Dominica received a $200 million project. Our country had received a project worth 65 million dollars. However, we have not yet granted approval for the project. In contrast, Nepal has already commenced work on the project, and Dominica approved it within six months.
During our committee’s discussion to inquire about the project, representatives from the Tourism Development Authority, Urban Development Authority, and Forest Conservation Department were present. When asked about the delay in the project, the Forest Conservation Department raised concerns about potential damage to the ecosystem. However, all other agencies present at the discussion had already granted their approval for the project.
Further investigation revealed that the construction of a pier for the cable car in case of an emergency would require 2.3 hectares of land in the Kikiliyamana area, which falls under the jurisdiction of the Forest Conservation Department. According to international standards, 0.8 hectares (220 perches) of this land are essential for construction.
The remaining area would remain as common ground. However, the Forest Conservation Department proposed to provide only 58 perches and stated that the rest cannot be allocated due to technical reasons.
The project officials argue that the entire 220 perches are necessary to address technical requirements adequately.
I would like to challenge the Forest Conservation Department today to provide scientific and well-founded reasons for all the concerns they have raised. It is crucial that all parties involved in this project work together to find solutions that not only ensure the preservation of our ecosystem but also allow for responsible and sustainable development. By engaging in a constructive dialogue and presenting evidence-based arguments, we can collectively arrive at an informed and balanced decision that benefits both our environment and the development of the cable car project.
Indeed, companies from Europe have set a high standard in implementing advanced technologies and maintaining their reputation for excellence. As a nation, it is crucial for us to learn from such examples and ensure that we do not lose valuable investments of 65 million dollars due to internal power struggles or bureaucratic obstacles. Collaboration and effective communication between government agencies are vital to provide a conducive environment for investors.