Two pacts may be signed during Emir’s Lanka visit
Gulf Times 28 January 2009
By Arvind Nair
QATAR and Sri Lanka are likely to sign two bilateral agreements during the proposed visit by HH the Emir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani to the island nation in May.
Sri Lanka’s Ambassador to Qatar Vijayasiri Padukkage told Gulf Times that the proposed agreements were related to investment protection and promotion, and economic co-operation.
The Emir is likely to visit Sri Lanka in May although no dates have been finalised.
The two countries, currently enjoying “excellent bilateral relations”, have already signed an avoidance of double taxation agreement.
Both capitals would prepare for the high-level visit, he said. In the coming months, there would be lots of interactions. There could be a preparatory ministerial visit in April to Colombo. “I am also trying to get some officials from Colombo to come here to finalise the documents. So far, we have not done anything in that manner since the focus so far has been on labour”, the ambassador said.
Once the Emir’s visit was over, Sri Lankan president could come to Qatar, either this year or the next, he added.
The new agreements “will talk about government policies on investment protection and promotion”, Padukkage said.
The agreements could be followed by the creation of a Qatar-Sri Lanka Investment Fund between the Qatar Investment Authority and a Sri Lankan agency, “similar to the ones it has with Vietnam, Indonesia and so on”, the ambassador said.
Padukkage stressed that these were currently just ideas, “not even proposals now”. But they are all on the agenda.
Economic co-operation was now gaining importance because the Gulf was increasingly reducing its dependence on oil exports by diversifying into other spheres of activity, with an increase in private and foreign investment in non-energy sectors, he said.
Also on the agenda is co-operation on the farm sector, he added. “Sri Lanka is basically an agriculture country and conditions are good for farming.
Co-operation between countries is important to ensure future food security, and we are trying to promote Qatari investment in the farm sector”.
There could be agriculture farms in the Eastern province, where there were lots of vacant arable lands. Investment in some co-operative system among small land holders was also possible, especially for food, vegetables and flowers. Such co-operatives were already working there, he added. Sri Lanka’s climatic conditions allow a wide variety of crops to be produced.
Besides agriculture, Padukkage said, there were many other fields where Qatar could invest profitably. The garment-manufacturing sector, for instance, was being given priority because of its potential for income generation and employment capacity.
In addition to government farm lands, huge tracts of cultivable land were available in the private sector, the ambassador pointed out. For instance, a private company in Sri Lanka, which has huge interests in the hospitality sector with hotels and tour companies, had offered to provide 5,000 acres of farm land for joint cultivation with Qatari investors.
“They (the companies) are very keen in agriculture. If anyone from the Qatari private sector is interested they have the land for a joint venture. This is possible even without a government agreement in place”, the ambassador said.
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