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AWAIT THE LANKAN GIANT – Chinese researcher

* Emulating S’pore in shipping, port services

* 56 percent rise in Chinese tourists to Lanka

Sri Lanka, due to its strategic position and lucrative natural resources, is on track to become a major player in South Asia, China Institute of Contemporary International Relations researcher Hu Shisheng said.

“The country, recovering after 26 years of civil war, is in dire need of external investment to improve its infrastructure,” Hu said. Sri Lanka is emulating Singapore by developing its shipping and port service industries, he added.

“Also, Chinese entrepreneurs might want to consider transferring some industries hampered by excess capacity and increasing labour cost,” Hu said.

Meanwhile, Sri Lanka’s Ambassador to China Ranjith Uyangoda said buses decorated with scenic photos of Sri Lanka will go into service in major Chinese cities. The Sri Lanka tourism authority has paid to deck out 50 city buses each in Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Chengdu with landscape photographs of the island so that more Chinese people will learn of its natural beauty, he said.

The ambassador encouraged Chinese visitors to explore the island, known as a paradise in the Indian Ocean for its scenic beauty.

The number of Chinese tourists in Sri Lanka rose in the first quarter increased by 56 percent year-on-year, Sri Lanka Tourism Promotion Bureau marketing manager Guo Qinghua said.

The total number of tourists expected this year is 60,000.

Uyangoda said the two countries are expected to sign a series of political, economic, cultural and tourism agreements during President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s visit.

“The visit is significant with regard to the China-Sri Lanka friendship, which is traditional and long-standing,” Uyangoda said, adding that the meetings will lay a solid foundation for future relations in politics, culture and the economy.

In late April, the fifth joint committee meeting on trade and economic cooperation between the two countries was convened in Colombo.

China and Sri Lanka signed an agreement on economic and technical cooperation worth $16 million and an agreement on a concessional loan - with generous terms - of $147 million by China to Sri Lanka for the Hambantota port project, according to media reports.

Analysts said the port is envisioned as a future refueling and service point for cargo ships.

China Harbour Engineering Co and Sinohydro Corp jointly completed the first phase of construction in November 2010.

Uyangoda said the second phase has just started and added that the port will be the largest one in South Asia, capable of accommodating 33 vessels at any given time. “Construction of the Hambantota port creates jobs for local people and helps to boost trade and economic development of Sri Lanka,” he said.

The ambassador said Sri Lanka aims to transform from a developing to a middle-income economy by 2016, doubling the GDP per capita to $4,000.

Trade between China and Sri Lanka soared to a record high of $3.17 billion last year.

Uyangoda said talks have been conducted on further tapping the trade potential.

He hopes that more Sri Lankan products, like Ceylon tea, gems and fish, will have better access to China’s vast market.

He also called on Chinese companies to keep close attention to the numerous investment opportunities of infrastructure development in Sri Lanka.

“Our tax policy is very flexible, and Chinese companies in Sri Lanka are quite pleased with the investment environment,” he said.

Courtesy: China Daily

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