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With the 50th anniversary of the diplomatic relationship between Japan and Sri Lanka approaching next year, the new ambassador to Japan hopes to further strengthen bilateral ties, particularly in business.

Karunatilaka Amunugama

During a visit to The Japan Times, Karunatilaka Amunugama said he wants to convince as many small and medium-size Japanese firms as possible that Sri Lanka is a promising nation for investment “because they have a much faster decision-making process than larger companies.”

“Japan already ranks among the top 10 investors in Sri Lanka. But I want many more tangible results during my time in office,” said the 47-year-old Amunugama, who has been ambassador since April.

Sri Lanka’s infrastructure is especially advantageous for those companies interested in the Indian market, he said. Under an agreement signed with India last year, companies can export from Sri Lanka to India tax-free, or for a very low tax rate.

Amunugama added he hopes such firms will create jobs for Sri Lanka’s workforce, which is skillful, educated and hard working.

The economy was affected by the anxiety that followed the suicide bombing by Tamil Tiger terrorists in 1998 that killed 16 people. Economic growth rate dropped from an annual 9 percent before the bombing to 6 percent.

And although tourism declined following the attack, Amunugama is confident the industry will soon recover, “as the situation is now completely stable.”

“Due to a lot of technical and financial support it has received from Japan, people in Sri Lanka are very pro-Japanese,” said Amunugama.

“Japan has a special place in every Sri Lankan’s heart, but the Japanese people will not see it unless they visit the country.”

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