Tuesday, October 3, 2023

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India plans to fix SL economic crisis by long-term investments

After helping Sri Lanka with an unprecedented assistance of around $4 billion since January as the country plunged into a deep economic crisis, India is now planning to invest heavily in newer sectors through both private and public firms there to tackle socio- economic issues , Indian high commissioner to Sri Lanka Gopal Baglay disclosed. .

The sectors India will focus on include renewable energy, hydrocarbons, ports and infrastructure, and IT among others. Both countries are also looking at signing the long pending Economic and Technology Co-operation Agreement.

The top Indian diplomat in Colombo said New Delhi will now work with the new government there, both at the functional as well as political levels, to facilitate talks for a bailout package by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for Sri Lanka, which got stuck earlier as the situation there worsened.

The island nation has been reeling under a massive crisis following over 100 days of protests by its people, witnessing a change of regime with the ousting of former president Gotabaya Rajapaksa, who eventually fled the country.

Subsequently, Ranil Wickremesinghe was elected as president and Dinesh Gunawardena as prime minister.

“India will engage with the new Sri Lankan government on this for promoting greater trade, greater investment and more cooperation between the two economies,” he added.

According to Baglay, discussions with the new government there have already begun regarding which sectors the investments will be coming in.

He said Indian investors, from the public as well as private sectors, will explore opportunities in certain key sectors of ports and infrastructure, renewable energy, electricity, hydrocarbons, agriculture and dairy, education and information technology, among others.

“Basically those areas where India has its own strength…And we being in the neighbourhood are in a better position to create wider ties in these areas. It is already happening as we speak,” he said, adding that a team from NTPC Ltd (National Thermal Power Corporation Limited) had visited Sri Lanka earlier this month.

The NTPC is looking at establishing a solar power plant in Sampur in eastern Sri Lanka near Trincomalee, under a joint collaboration with the Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB).

“Even in this situation, which obviously has its own difficulties, we continue to work with the Sri Lankan government to push forward, as best as one can, joint ventures and joint projects. At the same time, we are also in discussion with the new government to create more avenues for newer investments from India,” Baglay highlighted.

He said that apart from renewable energy and IT, the focus now will also be on the manufacturing of pharmaceutical products.

“Sri Lanka presently imports pharmaceuticals, 70 per cent of which actually comes from India. So, the idea is if Sri Lanka can not only start producing pharmaceutical products for its own requirements but eventually also export them to earn forex,” added Baglay.

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