June 10, Colombo: Positive prospects abound for Qatar and Sri Lanka to strengthen bilateral relationships and to explore investment opportunities in sectors such as tourism and Doha Bank will play a bigger role in bringing Qatari investments to various sectors of Sri Lanka, Doha Bank CEO Dr R Seetharaman has said.
Doha Bank, the third largest conventional bank in Qatar Thursday set up a representative office in Colombo In a move to support the expansion of trade and business relations between Sri Lanka and Qatar, Gulf News reported.
Speaking at a forum after the opening of the Bank's representative office, Doha Bank CEO Dr. Seetharaman said Sri Lanka is a great opportunity for the Gulf, and while the two countries are already engaged in trade and employment activities, the full potential has not been reached.
He said the bilateral relationships can be explored in the fruits and vegetables, spices, cereals, rice, boat building, fabrics, construction services, garments, and IT segments.
He said Sri Lanka could support Qatar in the food sector, citing LuLu Group, which has already started resourcing a number of food products from Sri Lanka for its hypermarkets in Qatar.
He noted that Qatari corporates can also explore opportunities in Sri Lanka's infrastructure and energy sector. As for the tourism sector, there were 1,700 Qataris who visited Sri Lanka in 2016, reflecting more "potential opportunities," Seetharaman said.
"Qatar and Sri Lanka can build on surging bilateral partnerships toward synergistic opportunities…manufacturing, infrastructure, marine, and energy, are the other key sectors in the Sri Lankan economy," he said.
Seetharaman also cited growth in the diplomatic relationship between Qatar and Sri Lanka in last three years. He said Sri Lanka has enjoyed close ties with Qatar, with over 140,000 Sri Lankans working in Qatar, and 210 Sri Lankan companies established in partnership with the Qatari side.
Sri Lanka's imports from Qatar have primarily been polymers of ethylene, while exports to Qatar were bananas followed by food preparations, tea, and vegetables. Sri Lankan companies are looking to take part in Qatari projects and establish joint ventures in various sectors, Seetharaman said.
Seetharaman said the Sri Lankan economy is expected to grow by 4% in 2018. The country unveiled Vision 2025, which aims to position it as an export hub in the Indian Ocean.
"As per Vision 2025, concrete steps will be taken to move from exporting mainly low-technology products to high-tech products and attracting transformational, knowledge-based investments," he said.
The opening of Doha Bank's Sri Lanka representative office was held in the presence of Sri Lankan ambassador ASP Liyanage and counsellor Abdulla al-Sheraim, while the forum titled 'Qatar-Sri Lanka Bilateral Opportunities' was participated by Liyanage, Sri Lankan Minister of Finance and Mass Media Mangala Samaraweera, and Sri Lanka's Central Bank governor Dr Indrajit Coomaraswamy.