May 18, Colombo: Sri Lanka-Norway diplomatic relations spanning over 60 years since 1950 have entered a new and dynamic phase strengthening the relations and bilateral cooperation between the two countries, Finance Minister Ravi Karunanayake said.
Minister Karunanayake was the Chief Guest at the Norwegian National Day celebrations held Wednesday at the Galle Face Hotel.
The Minister welcoming the long relationship with Norway, said the bilateral relations have gathered new momentum with the exchange of high level visits and meetings between the leaders of the two countries,
The open dialogue and the proactive bilateral engagement culminated with the Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg concluding an official visit to Sri Lanka in August 2016. The visit opened a new chapter in bilateral cooperation, the Minister said.
The identified areas of cooperation include development of tourism, fisheries, renewable energy, and IT sectors.
He added that Norway's development cooperation with Sri Lanka focus on priority areas that are also linked to some of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) such as climatic change, conservation of the Ocean, peace and justice, and the equitability and the affordable clean energy.
Working together to promote and develop these specific sectors would also reinforce those efforts to advance the SDGs, he said.
"We are honored that the government of Norway has chosen Sri Lanka as a partner country in this endeavor due to largely the progress Sri Lanka has made in human development and its commitment to advancing SDGs," the Minister noted.
"We are encouraged by Norway's support for the political and economic reform agenda of the present government. This is reflected in the word and deed," he said.
Norwegian government has increased development assistance to Sri Lanka for 2016 to US$ 7.8 million. Its support for Sri Lanka's reconciliation process is demonstrated through material support on ground. Through the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Norway provides funding for the livelihood development in the areas of fisheries and agriculture for returnees in Jaffna district.
Minister Karunanayake expressed appreciation for Norway's assistance to develop Sri Lanka's fisheries national policy framework. "With such valuable assistance this sector would become viable and sustainable in the future," he sai.
Sri Lanka- Norway investment and trade ties are rapidly expanding in scope, the Minister noted. There is an increase in the visits by the Norwegian investors and businessmen and Norwegian investors in the renewable energy are already exploring investment opportunities. Some companies are already involved in solar energy projects.
He said there is considerable potential for further investment, particularly, in the area of tourism, agriculture, dairy industry, fisheries, off-shore fishing farming, infrastructure development, health and pharmaceuticals.
New opportunities in the service sector would open up as Sri Lanka transforms itself into a viable financial, logistical and business hub of the Indian Ocean, he highlighted.
Speaking of people-to-people connectivity, the Finance Minister asked the Norwegian government to encourage the Sri Lankan expatriate community in Norway to join Sri Lanka's peace, reconciliation and development process.
The Sri Lankan Minister said the two nations must seek to continuously build on many complementaries and explore opportunities of new avenues of cooperation for mutual benefit.
"I am confident that the renewed dialogue between our two countries will provide a platform for transforming our bilateral ties into meaningful economic partnership," the Minister said.