Sri Lanka president tells companies to ready for China

Source:Xinhua Published: 2014-4-9 9:56:23

Sri Lanka's private sector should ready themselves to tap into new markets including China, said President Mahinda Rajapaksa on Tuesday assuring a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) is nearing finalization with the fastest growing economy in the world.

Speaking to top rung private and public sector officials President Rajapaksa in an upbeat mood called for the private sector to equip themselves for challenges posed by new markets, especially from China, and avail themselves to new opportunities provided for by the government.

Sri Lanka's government last year inked a preliminary agreement to install a FTA between the two countries and it is expected to be completed before December.

President Rajapaksa recalled that since the end of a three decade war in 2009 Sri Lanka had achieved significant growth and the next step was to break into new markets.

Relations between the two countries have leap frogged since 2008 with around 5 billion US dollars in infrastructure loans being given to the Rajapaksa government by China for various massive projects including ports, airport, highways and railroads.

But trade has remained low with exports accounting for about 1 percent of Sri Lanka's 1.3 billion US dollar sector.

"Political stability has been achieved and this gives the right environment for growth. We must now focus on where to go and plan for 2030 or 2050 and beyond. We will find new markets. One such place is China. An FTA between the two countries is imminent," he emphasized.

Rajapaksa also called on the country's banks to support private companies to invest or export to China pointing out new loans and financial support would be essential for the encouraged expansion.

Sri Lanka's economy rebounded to 7.3 percent growth in 2013 after a drought ridden 2012 slowed development to 6.3 percent. Progress was seen in all three sectors with industries growing at 9.9 percent, services 4.4 percent and agriculture by 4.7 percent compared to the previous year.

Inflation remained at single digit levels for the fifth consecutive year with Central Bank projections for 2014 putting the figure at about 5 percent.

The unemployment rate remained low during 2013 at 4.4 per cent, albeit increasing marginally from 4 percent in the previous year largely due to the entry of new job seekers to the labor market. An increase in both the number of employed as well as unemployed persons resulted in an expansion of the labor force by 4.1 percent in 2013, the latest Central Bank report launched on Tuesday said.

Looking ahead, the Sri Lankan economy is expected to maintain a high growth momentum in the medium term supported by an increase in investment, a favorable macroeconomic environment and continued recovery in the global economy.

However, Sri Lanka's economic progress in the medium term is not without challenges, and structural adjustments are necessary for sustaining the growth momentum over the medium term and beyond.

These include increasing productivity, improving education and training, reducing the high income deficit, attracting more foreign direct investment and reducing the trade deficit, Central Bank Economic Research Director Swarna Gunaratne said.

Posted in: Economy

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