For mobilizing domestic investment for the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the Government needs to develop different schemes of blended finance, non-state budget investment financing, and collaborative financing schemes. For such a mix of investment to be attracted, ‘the ease of doing business’ in Sri Lanka needs to be improved significantly and policy consistency is an imperative.
The above was the main message delivered at the ‘Private Sector Consultation on mobilizing Domestic Investments for SDGs” that was held on 17th February 2020 at the Ceylon Chamber of Commerce premises. Over 35 private sector representatives from banking, telecom, garments, agro industries, construction, food and beverage, leisure and manufacturing attended the program, which was jointly organized by the Ceylon Chamber of Commerce, Janathakshan GTE and the Centre for Environment and Development. The consultation was a part the ‘GIZ 2030 Agenda Transformation Fund’ supported programme towards building transformational capacities to facilitate private sector and subnational governments to align their investments towards the SDG agenda.
Mr. Uchitha de Zoysa, Executive Director of the Centre for Environment & Development (CED), made the lead presentation providing an update on the current status of financing SDGs at global level and an overview of Sri Lankas preparedness of implementing the global agenda. Sri Lanka is yet to sort-out policy incoherence and the deeply fragmented public institutional structure which acts as a barrier towards mainstreaming the SDGs into its policy frameworks. After four years since agreeing to implement the SDGs, Sri Lanka is yet to localize the indicators and establish transformational baselines. Mr. de Zoysa pointed out that Sri Lankan authorities have not developed an integrated domestic financing strategy for Sri Lanka and invited the private sector to partner the initiative towards Strengthening the Mobilization of Private and Sub-National Domestic Investments in Sri Lanka for the 2030 Agenda.
The private sector speakers including Dr. Rohan Fernando (Director, Aitken Spence PLC), Mr. Rizvi Zaheed (Director, Vidullanka PLC) and Mr. Shiran Fernando (Chief Economist, Ceylon Chamber of Commerce) highlighted that the country needs to mobilize a wide range of financing resources, ensure institutional and policy reforms, conduct coherent planning and implementation towards prioritization and timely delivery of the SDGs by 2030. Whilst the private sector is ready for aligning SDGs, the challenge is the mixed signals and lack of transparency from the government in terms of policy direction. A case in point was brought on about the construction sector where incentives are given in on the one hand and then a few months later, heavy taxes imposed leading to non-viability of the sector. Dr Fernando commenting on the scenario, said “whilst it is easy to say that the private sector is the engine of growth, in reality the Government does not facilitate supply of fuel required to run the engine ‘’. Mr. Zaheed reiterated that the opportunities for Sri Lanka in the agricultural sector is enormous, but the need is to modernize, mechanize and make use of developments in the ICT sector to improve the agriculture productivity. The panel discussion was moderated by Mr. Ranga Pallewala, CEO of Janathakshan GTE.
In conclusion Mr. Chandrarathna Vithanage, Senior Assistant Secretary General of the Ceylon Chamber of Commerce, drew attention to the fact that even though there is an urgent need for the world to mobilize capital in the direction of achieving the SDGs, the investment landscape shows a large gap between the amount of capital invested by the government and development agencies and the vast amount of financing required for achieving the SDGs by 2030. He extended the fullest cooperation of the private sector towards engaging more proactively towards mobilizing domestic investment for SDGs in Sri Lanka.