Sri Lanka woos Japanese investors

Sri Lanka is the most liberalized market in South Asia and wants to increase trade with and investment from Japan, P. Amarasinghe, deputy governor of the Central Bank of Sri Lanka, said Wednesday.

“Japan is one of the single most important sources of imports and accounted for nearly 10 percent of our imports in 1998,” Amarasinghe said in a briefing on the country’s economy at the Sri Lanka Embassy in Tokyo’s Minato Ward.

Japan is also an important destination for Sri Lanka’s exports, particularly for such items as ceramics, gems and jewelry, he said.

While Sri Lanka has shown strong resistance to the Asian currency crisis, it has been affected by Japan’s economic difficulty with trade volume declining in the past few quarters, he said. “We would be delighted to see a strong and booming Japanese economy,” he said.

The services sector is growing rapidly, especially in the areas of telecommunications, finance and tourism.

The telecommunications industry, which was a government monopoly, has been opened to the private sector, and Nippon Telegraph and Telephone Corp. has bought a substantial stake in Sri Lanka Telecom, Amarasinghe said.

In the financial sector, 17 of 25 banks in the country are foreign, and the Colombo stock market is fully open to foreign investments, he said.