The objective of the webinar was to create more awareness regarding investment opportunities in Sri Lanka amongst potential French investors. The welcome speech was made by MEDEF International Managing Director Philippe Gautier. Gautier stated that MEDEF initially established contact with Sri Lanka 14 years ago, and recently launched the France-Sri Lanka Business Council. He also stated that MEDEF is currently in the process of promoting an inward delegation to visit Sri Lanka in 2021 and they are making every effort to make it possible.
Opening remarks were made by French Ambassador to Sri Lanka and Maldives Eric Lavertu. The Ambassador stated that the webinar is perfectly timed, since the Government Budget was held on 17 November recently approved by the Parliament. The Ambassador stated that the business and investment climate in Sri Lanka was very favourable for the French business community. “Especially with the development of the Colombo Port City project, there are many investment opportunities for the French companies. Hence it is an ideal opportunity for the French companies to invest in Sri Lanka,” stated the Ambassador and invited the French companies who are interested in Sri Lanka to join the inward delegation, planed by MEDEF 2021.
Opening remarks made by the French Ambassador was followed by the opening remarks made by Prof. Kshanika Hirimburegama, Sri Lanka Ambassador designate to French Republic. Hirimburegama stated that there was much potential in Sri Lanka for business and investment collaboration between Sri Lanka and France. “The Sri Lankan Government is very keen on economic diplomacy for win-win situations.”
The keynote address was by State Minister of Money and Capital Market and State Enterprise Reforms Ajith Nivard Cabraal on ‘Highlights on facilities /concessions offered by the Government of Sri Lanka to foreign investors’. The State Minister stated that the Government of Sri Lanka was currently in the process of establishing a new law for the Colombo Port City project, and invited French investors to invest in projects in the Colombo Port City. “The Sri Lanka Government is now in the process of developing a Pharmaceutical Zone at Hambantota to manufacture pharmaceuticals with European international standards, that will be world class.”
France has been a partner of Sri Lanka in trade and development for many years, stated the Minister and encouraged the French business community to now make Sri Lanka an investment partner as well. The Minister stated that leading French companies have been operating in Sri Lanka in power, energy and water treatment, for many years.
The Minister also mentioned that Sri Lanka has faced the COVID-19 pandemic situation comparatively much better than most countries by balancing the health services, with economical services to take the economy forward, despite the pandemic with significant achievements in sectors such as agriculture and IT. The Minister stated that software was developed in Sri Lanka for London Stock Exchange even during the lockdown period.
The webinar was addressed by Board of Investment (BOI) of Sri Lanka Chairman Sanjaya Mohottala who made a presentation on ‘Investment Opportunities available for Foreign Investors’. Mohottala stated that Sri Lanka was a knowledge driven economy, with highly paid job opportunities and Mohottala outlined target sectors to attract more FDI from France in his presentation.
Mohottala also stated that Sri Lanka had been an attractive investment destination and the recent budget has out lined additional incentives making Sri Lanka even more attractive for potential investors. Mohottala mentioned that the Government was currently developing a textile zone/fabric park in Eravur. This project is scheduled to be launched in January 2021 and commence operation in October 2021. The BOI Chairman concluded by inviting French investors to invest in Sri Lanka.
Michelin Corporate Vice President Public Affairs Eric Le Corre shared his experience on investing in Sri Lanka. Le Corre mentioned that Sri Lanka offers a comparative advantage to investors with operational cost including the sourcing of raw materials such as natural rubber.
He also mentioned that the company has enjoyed a long history in Sri Lanka and had every intention to continue their business operation in the country. Corre also stated that Sri Lanka enjoyed a very important location by being placed on the Asian European Maritime Route. The company has sourced a majority of their executive staff /managers from the local talent pool that is very effective and highly skilled.
The closing remarks were made by the
Sri Lanka-France Business Council President Ikram Ghazali (Director of CMA CGM Lanka Ltd). Ikram mentioned that Sri Lanka as a country offered a lot of opportunists and invited French investors to consider Sri Lanka as a potential destination. Ikram highlighted the port sector, airport sector and Export Processing Zones that facilitate foreign investors in Sri Lanka, providing access to respective markets in the region. He mentioned that Sri Lanka remained as the gateway to countries in Asia as well as Africa.