Sri Lankan business leaders who participated at a recent business  roundtable, involving private sector representatives of Sri Lanka and China say they have urged the Chinese business community to join hands with Sri Lankan private companies to launch joint ventures. The meeting which took place in Shanghai, China on the sidelines of the Second Symposium on the Maritime Silk Road and China-Sri Lanka Relations comprised a business delegation from Sri Lanka which included Lawrence Perera, Chairman MICRO; Ruan Samarasinghe, Managing Director, Jetwing Hotels; Ravi Karunaratne, Head of Projects, Hayleys Advantis; Krishnan Balendra, Chairman, NTB; Nimal Cooke, Executive Director, Maharaja Organization Projects (Pvt.) Ltd; and Dharshana Munasinghe, Director, Business Development of the Access Group, who highlighted the investment potential in Sri Lanka.

“The general message communicated to the Chinese businesses was that the era of unsolicited offers to the government to be financed by foreign borrowings is over due to the heavy debt burden the government has to carry. Consequently Sri Lankan business leaders urged the Chinese business community to join hands with Sri Lankan private companies, who have the resources as well as experience to identify and launch joint ventures,” Sri Lanka-based think tank Pathfinder Foundation, which co-organised the symposium along with the Shanghai Institutes for International Relations (SIIS) said in a statement last week.

According to the statement, the Sri Lankan business delegation had recommended Chinese businesses to participate in PPP projects and had pointed out that the FTA between Sri Lanka and China, which will be concluded by early 2017, would open new vistas for Chinese companies to penetrate into Indian and Pakistani markets.
“The Chinese companies that expressed their skepticism over the investment prospects in Sri Lanka in November last year during the first symposium, appeared to be more positive of the improving investment climate in Sri Lanka following the visit of Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe to China in April this year,” the statement by the Pathfinder Foundation said.

It noted that among the participating companies from China were Beijing International Trust, Chongqing Foreign Trade and Economic Cooperation, China Harbour Engineering, Chinese Rayong Industrial Park, Pacific Rim Zhengzhou Yutong and SINOMA.

“Their presentations revealed the interest of Chinese companies have in Sri Lanka. Deputy Manager China Harbour Engineering said that the suspended Colombo Port City would recommence its work by October. In response to the interest shown to commence an industrial park in Hambantota, Pathfinder Foundation pointed out that there was a lack of skilled workers to support such a venture in Hambantota and recommended that the Chinese government, in association with the Chinese industry, could help establishing a technical collage, similar to the German Technical College in Ratmalana, to address the shortage of technically-qualified youth to service the Hambantota Industrial Park,” the statement added.