Sri Lanka’s Agency for Development gets off the ground soon

Sri Lanka’s Agency for Development gets off the ground soon.

By Bandula Sirimanna – Business Times (Courtesy).

The much-awaited Sri Lanka’s Agency for Development is to be established within the next two months to fast-track, streamline and attract Foreign Direct Investments (FDI), official sources disclosed.  The Development Special Provisions Bill which provides provisions to set up this agency will be presented in parliament soon.  This agency has a specific task of attracting more FDIs to the country without delay and all arrangements have been made to commence its operations, a senior official said adding that the Prime Minister has at a recent high-level meeting issued a directive to launch it as soon as possible.

A high-powered committee appointed to work out modalities of the agency has already developed its structure as a one stop shop for FDIs with powers to obtain approvals of relevant agencies for foreign investors.  Several mega FDI projects in IT, tourism, agriculture (especially sugarcane), telecommunications, digitalisation and industrial sectors are in pipeline for approval since the past two months, government officials said.  These will receive the greenlight soon following the establishment of the Agency for Development chaired by economist Dr. Indrajith Coomaraswamy and Managing Director (designate) Mangala Yapa, the official said.

The government will regulate and properly plan development activities in the country with the aim of accelerating economic growth and finalise the promotion of FDI s through this new agency, moving away from the present system of foreign investment project approvals.  The proposed new bill will remove the obstacles facing investors and businesses concerning obtaining of land and buildings. Provisions of the draft bill also provide for land ownership to be given to registered investors who meet the required criteria, without being affected by the Land Restriction and Alienation Act.

The government will also completely revamp the Board of Investment (BOI) to suit modern needs as it was re-structured to the present institution from the Greater Colombo Economic Commission Model which was set up in 1978.  Although it was re-constituted as the BOI in 1992, it has not undergone any major re-structuring during the past two decades. A major change in the attitude of the staff is also needed to achieve positive results from the institution, officials added.  However, it looks like year 2016 (based on the performance so far) will only have 0.3 per cent of the GDP as the total FDI. This means a historically low FDI performance, a senior economist told the Business Times.