Environment Minister Naseer Ahamed initiates talks
Special Envoy of President Ranil Wickremesinghe to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA), Environment Minister Naseer Ahamed has entered into discussions with the Saudi government, seeking Riyadh’s collaboration with Colombo, for a five-year credit line of US $ 6 billion per annum for the supply of fuel, on a government to government basis as a long-term solution to Sri Lanka’s current economic crisis, sources disclosed.
Minister Ahamed as special envoy also proposed Saudi investments in Sri Lanka for manufacturing fertiliser, constructing petroleum storage facilities, establishing fuel supply stations, modernising and expanding the refinery, opportunities in mining minerals and promoting renewable energy.
During the meeting with the Saudi Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs, Waleed Al Khuraiji, in Riyadh, last week, Minister Ahamed intimated President Wickremesinghe’s desire to invite the Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to visit Sri Lanka at his convenience. A possible visit of President Wickremesinghe to Riyadh, prior to the Saudi ruler’s visit to Sri Lanka, had also surfaced in the discussions, sources said.
At the meeting with Eng. Mansour bin Hilal Al Mushaiti, Vice Minister of Environment, Water and Agriculture, Special Envoy and Environment Minister Ahamed referred to the role of coconut peat in the 10 million trees project of the Saudi Green Initiative and the possibilities of the Saudi Ministry investing in a coco-peat venture in Sri Lanka, and also setting up a fertiliser manufacturing project, that may help Sri Lanka achieve self-sufficiency in food. The Ministers followed up with a visit to the Saudi Basic Industries Corporation (SABIC) which produces fertilisers, industrial polymers, triple phosphate fertiliser and petrochemicals. ‘SABIC’ had responded with its readiness to supply Sri Lanka’s requirements, on a government to government basis, or to the private sector.
The Sri Lankan Minister also called on the Saudi Development Fund. Its CEO, Dr. Sultan Al Marshad said that the Fund is principally a development partner in projects and a lending agency. They would take a flexible approach, if invited for the meetings relating to the restructuring of Sri Lanka’s loans with other lending nations and entities, and that the Fund’s participation can benefit Sri Lanka.
The Special Envoy also visited the ACWA Power headquarters, in Riyadh, an entity which had made investments worth US $ 2.4 billion, in Uzbekistan, on 22nd August, this year, on a 1.5 GW wind farm project, and invited the group to explore investment opportunities in Sri Lanka. ACWA Power had already indicated interest in investing, in the range of US $ 600 to 800 billion, in Sri Lanka.
According to an internal report, received by the government from Riyadh, the Arabic speaking Environment Minister of Sri Lanka, “an alumnus of the King Fahd University of Petroleum and Mineral, in Riyadh, had received considerable recognition during all his engagements with the Saudi establishments, widening considerably the scope for cooperation between the two countries”.
The Environment Minister was in Saudi Arabia, from 28 August to 1st September, and was accompanied by Sri Lanka’s Ambassador to Saudi Arabia, P. M. Amza, and other officials. The Minister is understood to have briefed the President and the Cabinet on Monday.