The Asian Development Bank (ADB) President Takehiko Nakao yesterday expressed optimism over Sri Lanka’s future prospects to become a strong regional player in South Asia, but cautioned that the country needs to address its inward-looking policies to achieve a greater development.
“Sri Lanka still has a very good opportunity to become a strong regional player in South Asia,” Nakao told journalists at the 50th ADB Annual Meeting opening media briefing in Yokohama, Japan.
However, he highlighted that the low trade to GDP ratio of around 18% was a key concern that Sri Lanka would need to work on to boost the economy.
“Despite the opportunities available, the trade to GDP ratio is not increasing. Inward-looking policies is an element that needs to be addressed to encourage trade and investment,” he added.
Noting that Singapore’s founding Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew in the 1960s was determined to transform Singapore like Sri Lanka, Nakao said that Sri Lanka still has that promising opportunity to become a strong regional player in South Asia.
“Sri Lanka was such a promising place and it still is. By opening up Sri Lanka further and taking opportunities over growing South Asia and South East Asia, the country can have a much greater development,” he stressed.
He pointed out that Sri Lanka had ample natural resources from mining to agriculture to tourism sector and called on the country to make use of these promising opportunities to uplift the economy.
Stating that the recent International Monetary Fund (IMF) facility extended to the country had gone well, ADB President Nakao revealed that he planned to revisit Sri Lanka in the near future.
He also commended the reforms and investments taken by the Government of Sri Lanka especially in the conflict-affected areas as well as on the strong social economic indicators including education, child and women’s healthcare sectors.
During his visit to Sri Lanka in February last year Nakao assured a strong financing pipeline for 2016-2018 would be increased by 33% to $2 billion or on average around $700 million per annum from $500 million previously or $ 1.5 billion in the past three years.
As a key development partner, the ADB has worked closely with Sri Lanka since 1966 and has approved cumulative lending, grant, and technical assistance totalling $8.4 billion.
Sources : FT.lk