Qatar and Sri Lanka are expected to establish a joint business council by the third or fourth quarter of this year as part of efforts to strengthen the business and trade relations between the countries.
Moreover, Colombo, which is expecting 5.5% growth this year, has sought investments from Qatar especially in the areas of tourism, shipping, logistics and co-operation in the food security, while it has also offered 100% hedge against foreign exchange risks for overseas investors in its local currency bonds.
“We are hoping to establish that (the joint business council) so that there will be lot more business to business relations,” Ajith Nivard Cabraal, state minister, Ministry of Money and Capital Markets and State Enterprise Reforms, told a media roundtable here yesterday.
Stressing that Sri Lanka wants to do more business and avenues of co-operation with Qatar; Cabraal, a former central bank governor, said the discussions with high level officials of Doha centred on focused investments, including in the government securities.
Echoing the minister’s views, Sri Lanka’s envoy Mohamed Mafaz Mohideen said the joint business council is expected to be in place by this year.
“We are looking at establishing (the joint business council) by the third or fourth quarter of this year,” he said.
On the purpose of his visit to Qatar, Cabraal said “we are mainly on a fact finding or exploratory mission where we are also able to establish contacts with Qatar at a high level to ensure we have a deeper co-operation between the countries in the Gulf and we are trying to reach out to East as well.”
Stressing that the Asian country is planning to inoculate 50% of its population against the Covid-19 pandemic by the end of June this year; he said once the fairly accelerated programme of vaccination, the tourism sector would help the overall economy bounce back to 6-7% growth.
“We need to bounce back rapidly and that is why we thought of inviting more investments and have partnerships developed on a very strong scale,” Cabraal said.
Asserting that investments in Sri Lanka’s treasury papers would be a good value proposition for Qatar; he said the central bank has already provided a hedge or swap arrangement where the exchange risks is removed.
The central bank is offering global funds forward risk cover via a swap to help protect their local debt holdings.
Highlighting that Sri Lanka is on a track to become a lot more vibrant economy in the next few years; he said “the market value is right now at a depressed level, so the opportunity is for those investors coming now.”