Investor confidence regained after a lapse of 15 years was evident at the Sri Lanka Expo 2012 opened on Tuesday held alongside the exhibition with 1300 international participants.
The event marked the progress business in Sri Lanka was moving towards, remarked chief guest at the inauguration ceremony, President Mahinda Rajapaksa who also opened the exhibition afterwards at the Sirimavo Bandaranaike Memorial Exhibition Centre.
Organisers of the event, the EDB, had been planning to hold this event for the past two years.
And with six months preparation time to host the event in Colombo, the organizers have done a slipshod job of providing the true Sri Lankan hospitality for the 1300 international visitors.
The delegates were packed into a crowded tent set up opposite the Sirimavo Bandaranaike Memorial Exhibition Centre with no room to move and a long wait until the opening ceremony commenced that day, after sweating it out due to the lack of proper air conditioning facilities.
However, organizers were quick to ensure the President was provided the necessary comforts and had ordered an extra air conditioner or fan to be set up on the stage just prior to his arrival to inaugurate the event and declare open the exhibition.
He observed that this mega event showcased opportunities and potential available in Sri Lanka and noted that the large numbers gathered was “fully encouraging.”
He blamed the 15-year gap, after which this event was held, on the conflict in the country prior to 2009.
In this context he asserted that this government would not allow for separatism and terrorism to raise their ugly heads. Having entered a post war era, the country is now on a “path of peace and reconciliation,” he said adding that the present administration was committed towards this end. The country’s readiness to be repositioned with a fully participating private sector were reasons for the Foreign Direct Investments (FDI) to have more than doubled last year.
The President said that despite the false propaganda against Sri Lanka, international participation at the event was reflective of the investor confidence in the country. He noted that however, there still exist those that support separatism and terrorism.
Industry and Commerce Minister Rishad Bathiudeen speaking at the inauguration said this was the first time the Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) were participating at an event of this magnitude.
There were 60 SME stalls of the 350 exhibitors participating in 20 different product sectors, providing an opportunity for international buyers to interact with local manufacturers.
The export sector comprises 17% of Sri Lanka’s GDP and the country hopes to target US$20 billion by 2020, the minister said.
Export Development Board (EDB) Chairman and CEO Janaka Ratnayaka in his welcome speech said Sri Lanka produced some of the world’s best products and stated their intention of creating the island nation as a hub of Asia.