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12th October 2023 (9 Topics)

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Context:

Sri Lanka struggles to attract foreign investment, hindered by land access issues, while regional peers excel in industrial development.

Sri Lanka's FDI Challenge and Land Access

  • Comparative FDI Records: Sri Lanka lags behind in attracting foreign direct investment (FDI) compared to East Asian and Southeast Asian peers.
  • Land Access Bottleneck: Difficulty in obtaining land has been a major obstacle for investors in Sri Lanka, hindering industrial growth.
  • Efficiency of Export Processing Zones (EPZs): EPZs in East Asian countries offer pre-allocated land, reliable utilities, and streamlined services, a model Sri Lanka initially followed.

Government's Inaction

  • Lack of New EPZs: Sri Lanka has failed to invest in new EPZs since 2002, despite acknowledging the issue.
  • Unfulfilled Promises: Government made pledges to establish EPZs, but progress remains stagnant, as seen in budget speeches.
  • Wasted Public Funds: Inadequate planning led to infrastructure spending without completing land acquisition, causing financial losses.

Regional Disparities

  • Comparative Land Conversion Efforts: Neighboring countries have outpaced Sri Lanka in converting available land to industrial use.
  • Shift in Global Supply Chains: Emerging opportunities in South and Southeast Asia for export-oriented FDI require addressing key bottlenecks.
  • Call for Action in Budget Speech: The Finance Minister must move beyond promises and focus on concrete action for growth.
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