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Sri Lanka's development process

By Dr Srimal Fernando, Correspondent South Asia

Sri Lanka is located 31 kilometers off the southern coast of India and is surrounded by the Indian Ocean. Famous for the production and export of tea, coconut, rubber, coffee and spices, Sri Lanka boasts a progressive and modern industrial economy, having one of the highest per capita incomes in South Asia.
Two years after a long, drawn-out civil war ended in Sri Lanka, overseas firms were considering investing in the island nation. Easy access to the domestic market and the strategic location are prime reasons to consider when investing in Sri Lanka. The economy of the country is expected to grow eight per cent this year according to “the Asian Development out Look (ADO) 2011” the annual flagship publication of the Asian development Bank (ADB).
With the dawn of the peace and normalcy in Sri Lanka many airlines are exploring possibilities of frequent and or daily flights from Sri Lanka to major cities in India.  As tourism is booming in Sri Lanka Indian tourists are finding the proximity, the value for money due to the exchange rate differential and the frequency of flights to visit Sri Lanka. Up to May (2011) this year, visitors from India rose by 55 percent. Tour operators forecast that tourist arrivals to Sri Lanka are likely to exceed 700,000 this year. Currently, India is the number one market for the Sri Lankan tourist industry. Recently a passenger ferry between India and Sri Lanka was started after 28 years. A new ferry service between India and Sri Lanka offers a cheaper alternative to airlines for tourists, traders and pilgrims. Further trade, arts & crafts, Gem & jewellery, agriculture and food processing are some of the industries that benefit from the tourist recovery.
Exports of garments and textiles are one of the main sources of foreign exchange income for Sri Lanka. There are about 900 factories throughout the country that serves the world's leading fashion designing companies like Tommy Hilfiger, Victoria Secret and Liz Claiborne. The Country's exports rose to $ 7 billion (2009Est). In 2009, after a thirty year long civil war came to an end, the Colombo Stock Exchange (CSE) was ranked the best performing in the world.
The Government of Sri Lanka (GOSL) has launched several highway projects to bolster the 11,000 km transport system. Most of the countries cities and towns are connected by Sri Lankan railways.  A line of credit of US$ 100 million was made available by the Government of India for rehabilitation of the Southern Railways that links Colombo-Matara cities.  Because of its location in the path of major sea routes, Sri Lanka is a strategic maritime linkage between South East Asia and West Asia. In 2009, 4456 ships visited Sri Lankan ports.  A brand new port is being built in Hambantota in South Sri Lanka. This will ease the congestion in Sri Lankan ports, particularly in Colombo. An international harbour at Hambanthota was opened recently close to the main sea lane to the East Asia.  The country is building its second International Airport in Hambantota with landing capabilities for Air bus A 380 planes. Leading companies are eyeing lucrative investment opportunities in the Southern city of Hambantota that will be bidding for the Commonwealth games in 2018.
The skilled, semi and unskilled labour force is considered to be the main assets of both nations. There are large numbers of Sri Lankan expatriates working and living abroad who contribute to the economic development of the country. The remittance from Sri Lankans working overseas, is a major source of foreign exchange earnings. The burgeoning high end industries based at the eight Export Processing Zones of Sri Lanka yield many opportunities for investment. Fisheries, Telecommunication, Cement and Pharmaceuticals are sectors that are rapidly expanding.
South Africa and Sri Lanka are members of the United Nations and Non Alignment Movement (NAM), and the Commonwealth of Nations. Both these countries have   common positions on most of the international issues, be it human rights, eradication of poverty, UN reforms, ramification of globalization on trade or international terrorism. Relations between the two countries are growing steadily. South Africa needs to explore the possibility of extending flights to Sri Lanka and must explore opportunities to boost growth and development in major sectors such as infrastructure, power, tourism, pharmaceuticals, dairy industry, agro and food processing industries. Concerning advancement of democracy there is a lot that Sri Lanka can learn from South Africa . South Africa and Sri Lanka share a common passion for cricket and this could be effectively used and be extended to other activities. South Africa, with a wealth of experience in diverse sectors needs to consolidate its relationship with Sri Lanka in the future.





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