BOI accelerating efforts to attract strategic investments


Thursday, 29 July 2021.
Strategy implementation focusing on country attractiveness and revamping BOI through 7-pillar approach
Recruits professionals on contract basis to select positions and for formation of special unit following Cabinet approval
Infusion of fresh talent with deep business knowledge, identified private sector-based industry and domain specific skills and experience to make BOI more effective
Rolls out initiative involving short-term secondment of private sector professionals to BOI and vice versa
BOI last year inked projects worth over $ 2.3 b
Eravur textile park will be operational in Sept., first project with $ 35 m investment secured; additional investors begin reserving land.
The Board of Investment (BOI) said yesterday that it would continuously strengthen its foundation and lead the orchestration in attracting market transforming FDI (foreign direct investment) while contributing substantially to the Government’s transformative economic agenda.
To facilitate this, the BOI has set in motion an investment outreach program to target thrust sectors such as manufacturing, ICT, tourism and hospitality, agri and food processing, infrastructure, and other selected services, that offer the greatest impact to the Sri Lankan economy and its citizens to capitalise on.

The BOI said the strategy implementation would hinge on the two main thrusts of country attractiveness and revamping the BOI, through a seven-pillar approach, to enable its achievement. These seven pillars focus on creating a compelling investment climate, attracting targeted investments, providing potential investors with end-to-end investor support, fostering and nurturing partnerships with key public and private stakeholders, process monitoring, embracing technology, and, most importantly, developing the organisation and its people.

However, enhancing FDI for Sri Lanka remains a challenge, as the landscape remains fiercely competitive, both globally and within South and Southeast Asia.

Despite the debilitating effects of the pandemic, the BOI has been able to ink projects worth over $ 2.3 billion in value in 2020 and lay the foundation for much needed transformational change of both the economic landscape of the country as well as the BOI organisation.

The benefits of these key initiatives triggered in 2020 are now steadily yielding results as they begin to drive investment in the country. Some of these projects are the establishment of two dedicated zones – one for pharmaceuticals in Hambantota, and the other for textile manufacturing in Eravur.

The zone in Eravur will be operational in September this year and has already secured its first investment project approximating $ 35 million, with additional investors already reserving land. Once operational, the zone will generate 5,000+ employment opportunities, which is a significant step in the right direction for a region that otherwise ranks high on youth unemployment relative to the rest of the country. Furthermore, it also helps Sri Lanka to localise a significant quantum approximating $ 2 billion of fabric-related imports.

Another strategic intervention that took place in collaboration with the Ceylon Chamber of Commerce (CCC) and Colombo Stock Exchange (CSE), which was a marque public-private partnership initiated to support transformational change, was the recently concluded Sri Lanka Investment Forum 2021.

The forum further outlined additional policy changes and orchestrations that were needed and ongoing, to create and secure a compelling investment climate to attract sustainable FDI to the country.

In the short to medium-term, the challenge for Sri Lanka is to remain globally relevant and internationally competitive, if it is to attract greater FDI against the backdrop of the pandemic, where global FDI pools have tanked by over 40%. Over 1,000 agencies worldwide compete for this reducing FDI stock. Experience from leading Investment Promotion Agencies (IPAs) around the world show how investment promotion, when adequately funded and professionally executed with a combined public-private sector expertise, yield exponential results.

It is in this context that the BOI, along with ICTA and other critical agencies, were identified by the Cabinet as entities that require an infusion of specialised professional skills from the private sector.

A committee headed by the Secretary to the Treasury was appointed to review and recommend proposals to meet the objectives of entities such as the BOI. Accordingly, upon the presentation of the said proposals, Cabinet approval was granted to recruit professionals on a contract basis to select positions, and for the formation of a special unit to be set up, providing more emphasis on their industry experience, international exposure and proven track records, along with professional and academic qualifications.

The BOI is amidst operationalising this strategy approved by the Cabinet in infusing select fresh talent with deep business knowledge, identified private sector-based industry and domain specific skills and experience, into the organisation. It will generate the much-needed competitive strength when compared against regional IPAs, and these professionals will work hand-in-hand together as one team with experienced senior talent in the organisation on governmental affairs.

This talent infusion is part of a broader agenda that is deeply focused on building an enabling, cohesive and globally competitive organisation and a strong public-private partnership.

Other thrusts actioned already include the secondment of private sector professionals to the BOI for short-term exposure programs, as well as the secondment of BOI staff to selected private sector organisations for short-term exposure secondment programs. As paperless contact is the way of the future, simultaneous focus on a digitisation drive has also been initiated to facilitate a seamless customer experience for all requests received.

Accordingly, an online customs documentation system has been actioned along with online payment platforms, with projects underway to introduce an online process for investor project submission and approval as well. Supported by way of winning talent, a performance-oriented culture, and the implementation of efficient internal systems, the BOI is accelerating efforts to take advantage of emerging investment opportunities for Sri Lanka.