Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka calls on private sector to invest in peace

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As Sri Lanka moves forward with a peace process to end two decades of civil conflict, the Government is looking to the private sector to boost economic productivity and spur post-conflict recovery. UNDP is cooperating with the Government in an Invest-in-Peace Initiative to mobilize resources from the domestic, diaspora and foreign business communities.
The joint initiative contains three linked components: informing potential investors of peace-related business opportunities, assisting in streamlining regulatory institutions to expedite business entry, and channelling private investments to help rehabilitate war-torn areas.

Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe introduced Invest-in-Peace in New York last month, coinciding with the start of formal peace talks in Thailand, at meetings with CEOs of private sector companies, investment bankers, industry analysts and members of the Sri Lankan diaspora.

"I would suggest that a reciprocal force is binding our respective interests together: business is good for peace and peace is good for business," he said.

The Prime Minister pointed out that business leaders in the country have formed Sri Lanka First, which has become a powerful force for peace, sponsoring a rally last year that drew one million people.

"Private sector investment can reconstruct infrastructure, generate jobs, and produce goods and services," he said. "Investors can train and transfer know-how to young people whose education and productive capacity have been cruelly derailed by decades of civil conflict.

"In a wonderful way, peace releases paralyzed resources and actors, including producers and consumers, for effective mobilization by private sector innovators," said Mr. Wickremesinghe. He also saluted the role of Norway in facilitating the peace process.

Government plans for promoting a favourable business climate include removing barriers to production and investment, privatizing state-owned enterprises, creating a Cabinet sub-committee to monitor investment promotion, tabling legislation to restructure the Board of Investment, liberalizing foreign exchange controls, and carrying out financial sector reforms.

Sri Lanka has also concluded a trade agreement with India, with similar agreements being finalized with Bangladesh and Pakistan. Despite the toll of conflict, Sri Lanka ranks highest in the region on the UNDP Human Development Index, indicating a strong human resources base for investment.

UNDP Administrator Mark Malloch Brown pointed out that once security has been re-established after conflict, investment is a crucial next step, enabling people to get back to work, re-build their societies, and make sure there is a basis for lasting peace.

There is a congruence of Government vision, public sector investment, donor support and private sector investment, he said. "Together, these contributions can make Sri Lanka's extraordinary development potential a potent reality."

Miguel Bermeo, UN Resident Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative in Sri Lanka, described it as a moment of historic importance. "There has never been a better opportunity for achieving a peace accord. Economic progress is essential to support reconstruction, and investment is an essential foundation for peace."

He noted that the Government and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam are forming a joint task force to determine the needs for rebuilding and repairing infrastructure, and this work will provide opportunities for domestic and international businesses.

For more information please contact Asoka Kasturiarachchi, asoka.kasturiarachchi@undp.org, UNDP Sri Lanka, or Trygve Olfarnes, trygve.olfarnes@undp.org,UNDP Communications Office.