Has the BOI lost its oomph factor; meaning has senile decay set in? There are probably as outdated as their website. The About Us page in the BOI website says that they are 36 years old in 2014; clearly showing that they have just frozen since. But that is no surprise because it’s not just their website, two of the largest projects that could bring billions of dollars of investment to the country namely the Colombo Port City and the Heavy Industry Zone (HIZ) in Sampur, are in limbo.
Whatever the merits or demerits of halting these projects, the BOI seems to have got lost in transit and it looks like they are halting investment into the country rather than actually promoting it. It’s probably a part of the witch hunt policy adopted by the minority government of Ranil Wickremesinghe, but that is politics. The question is why isn’t the BOI fighting to keep these projects alive?
The port city project which is a direct investment by the Government of China and the Sampur HIZ which is an investment plan drawn up by a local company, have both been put on the backburner, and may well hold till the next government is put in place as elections are round the corner.
The frozen stance the BOI seems to have taken is reminiscent of the leadership the UNP had in the short time they came into power in 2002 also under the premiership of Ranil Wickremesinghe
Professor G.L. Peiris, former Minister of External Affairs in his address to the foreign Correspondents’ Association(as reported in the Island newspapers), said that the whole country felt the obvious need to change the existing state of uncertainty and stagnation, which was adversely impacting every section of the public, and there was total gridlock affecting all sectors. The former Professor of Law of the Colombo University said the government had no business to transact in Parliament and had, in fact, allocated two days for condolence votes this week. Incredibly, it was in a situation where not a single piece of legislation had been presented by the government to Parliament in order to secure approval for revenue measures spelt out in the Budget. He said that no revenue could, therefore, be raised from any of those measures and the Budget had been cynically reduced by the government to waste paper and nothing more than empty political propaganda.
Development projects in all parts of the country had ground to a halt with employment and standards of living being the first casualties. Public service was totally paralysed with officials afraid to take responsibility for decisions because of the on-going political vendettas. Senior officials in the Customs and Excise Departments and the Consumer Affairs Authority had resigned on account of the degree of political interference with the discharge of their official duties, Prof. Peiris said.
The frozen stance the BOI seems to have taken is reminiscent of the leadership the UNP had in the short time they came into power in 2002 also under the premiership of Ranil Wickremesinghe. At that time the same Prime Minister was talking of safety nets and international equations from the west, to stifle the LTTE when this terrorist organisation was smuggling arms into their territory right under our noses. It is important to realize that this is not the same UNP of the JR Jayewardene or R. Premadasa era where they would boldly go where no man would venture. This is a namby pamby approach that they take. They don’t understand the risk reward structure, and whatever they don’t understand is frozen. They are outdated to say the least and not progressive.
Well, one could say they could not be blamed, as being in a minority government, they are playing this game with their backs to the wall and narrow political gain seems to be the order of the day. As the top clock ticks and time goes by, and these two massive projects, one backed by the Chinese Government and the other by the Korean Government, are put on hold we have to ask ourselves, what signals are we giving to the world? Is the BOI saying their doors are closed for business?
One must understand that not one red cent comes from the Sri Lankan coffers for both these projects. But for how long will investors have patience, when will they say it is time to take their investments elsewhere? For China Pakistan is becoming a viable option.
It is at this point that the bureaucrats of the BOI have to realise that they are not working for the UNP, but their job is to work for the greater good of the country. They have to be finding ways to promote projects rather than doing the reverse. The total FDI by these projects will be around 5.5 billion US dollars!