Aug 20, Colombo: Sri Lanka's Central Bank said it has sought the services of lobbying firms in the United States to improve the communication between the two countries to create an environment conducive to attract more US investments.
Issuing a statement Wednesday, the Communications Department of the Central Bank said the bank has launched a robust Communication Programme in the US.
The program, according to the Central Bank is designed to "create and maintain a conducive political and economic environment in the USA to enhance Sri Lanka's long-term political and economic aspirations, and to develop a comprehensive information platform where decision makers in the USA would receive clear and accurate information about conditions in Sri Lanka so that it would serve to attract a higher volume of private sector investments."
The Bank has earlier received services of the Thompson Advisory Group (TAG), from March 2013 to June 2014, and recently hired the Liberty International Group LLC from August 2014 onwards.
The Central Bank justifying the hiring of PR firms said the Bank's Communication Programme has been devised in accordance with the Monetary Law Act's mandatory objectives of realizing economic and price stability and financial system stability, as well as encouraging and promoting the development of productive resources of Sri Lanka.
The Bank said it has, with "deep concern", observed the "massive and well-funded adverse publicity" generated by an organized group of the diaspora and certain sections of the local and international media against Sri Lanka after the end of the war.
It cautioned that if left unchecked and unchallenged, the negative publicity could have the potential to erode the confidence among international investors and adversely affect the stability of the country's economy.
In view of the situation, the Monetary Board of the Central Bank has decided to engage the services of a professional agency to assist the Bank to convey an accurate and realistic position regarding the political and economic conditions in Sri Lanka.
Earlier this month, the Central Bank signed up with the Liberty International Group (LIG) in Florida for a total fee of Rs. 99 million (approximately US$ 760,000) for a year. According to the agreement, the Monetary Board will pay Rs. 8,250,000 (or around US$ 63,300) every month to LIG in terms of the contract from August 1, this year till July 31, 2015.
The Central Bank paid a Rs. 100 million (approximately US$ 800,000) to the previous firm, Thompson Advisory Group for the period of one year from March 25, 2013 to March 24, 2014 in monthly payments of around US$ 66,000.
The Bank says such efforts are considered important since the US investments in Sri Lanka in terms of Government Securities, International Sovereign Bonds, Portfolio Investments, and Direct Investments, are substantial.
According to the Central Bank, the robust communication efforts, carried out so far, have been helpful to provide a more balanced understanding of the Sri Lankan political and economic conditions among a considerable number of top level US leaders including Senators and Congressmen, Think Tanks, Trade Associations, and the US general public.
"As a result, satisfactory results are being achieved, with considerable investments being made by several US investors, particularly in the banking sector," it said.
In addition to the Central Bank's engagement with LIG, the government of Sri Lanka has hired six lobbying firms in the US. The country has recently brought on the PR firm Burson-Marsteller and the lobbying shops Beltway Government Strategies, R&R Partners, Inc., and the Madison Group as part of a major new lobbying push in Washington.
Most recently the government signed a contract with the firm Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough to represent the government and the Sri Lankan Embassy on a US$35,000 per month contract that was once held by the firm Patton Boggs.
Despite Bank's assertion that a "more balanced view on Sri Lanka is also being taken by a greater number of US leaders, intellectuals and citizens," tensions between Washington and Colombo have steadily risen and the relationship between the two countries has reached a low point over the human rights issues and war crime allegations.