Stressing on the cultural ties that existed between the two countries Randeniya said, `Sri Lankans can take advantage of the fact that they are well perceived by the Burmese population due to long standing cultural ties. Myanmar has vast unexploited natural resources and the government is against nationalization of investments. Currently 70 hotels are under construction in Rangoon alone, and Burmese labour is very cheap due to acute rural poverty.`
Lakshman Jayasekera, former director of the Urban Development Authority (UDA), said that investors should realize that there was potential for higher returns from investment in small cities like Ratnapura, and drew the attention of investors to the potential for lucrative investments in car parks which the UDA was encouraging in Colombo at several sites such as Chatham Street.
Referring to projects in the pipeline he said that even Nepal had a better aviation transport system than us hence the Palavi hotel cum commercial development project. Aviation transport to Nuwara Eliya should be developed because it currently took about seven hours to get to this major town by Rail.
In reply to a question from Ceylon Today as to why the existing rail link to Nuwara Eliya could not be improved and the transport extended from Nanu Oya to Nuwara Eliya instead, he said that foreign investment was more forthcoming for Aviation Development rather than railways.
The 5,000 housing unit Ratmalana Housing Project (Rs 48 billion), the High Rise Rajagiriya Lake Drive residential project and the Metro Train System from Moratuwa to Fort (US dollars 1, 512 million), were other major projects. The project report for this project had been completed.
Ranjan Sibera from the Board of Investment in Sri Lanka, outlining why investment in the country was advantageous to foreigners, said that unlike in many other developing nations, 100% foreign ownership of investments was permitted here and there was no restriction on repartriation of profits. He said Sri Lanka had investment protection agreements with 25 countries.
`In respect to the `ease of doing business` we have been ranked as number 84 in the world, which compares well with India ranked 134 and Viet Nam 98, in 2013. The BoI now even accepts online applications for investment projects,` he said.
If you set up a business in Sri Lanka you may access the Indian market duty free, because of the free trade agreement with India and Pakistan. The Indian agreement extended to 4,332 products, he said. Education, urban housing, and hotels were profitable areas for potential foreign investors.
Chitra Weddikkara Chairperson of the Symposium, speaking to Ceylon Today said that the government should ensure a minimum 30% local component for foreign investors who wish to invest here and that Sri Lanka had the technical expertise to provide this locally.
Jonathan Alles Managing Director of Hatton National Bank described the country`s 10 year outlook for the construction industry as `rosy`. This industry is `favoured` by HNB as showing particularly good potential, and its wide network of branches islandwide, was an advantage. Sub contractors tend to bank with us and we are looking at Rs 100 billion worth of projects in the next five years. Due to prevailing interest rates, it was a particularly good time to invest in housing, he said.