The BOI organised an interactive meeting at the Biyagama Export Processing Zone (BEPZ) where the keynote speaker was Minister of Development Strategies and International Trade Malik Samarawickrama.
The Minister was also assisted by BOI Board Members Sagara Gunawardana and Mangala Yapa and BOI Director General Duminda Ariyasinghe. Also present were senior officials of BOI including M.K.D. Lawrance - Executive Director (Zones) and Athula Jayasinghe - Zone Director of the BEPZ.
The Biyagama Export Processing Zone is the second Zone of the BOI to be established. It has a total area of 450 acres and is operating at full capacity. The Zone employees total 21,136 and hosts 57 enterprises. Of these 18 are in the Apparel sector, 13 in Rubber Manufacture, 6 in Services, 2 in Electronics, 2 in Granite and Marble, 1 Security Printing and 1 Sail and Water Sports goods manufacture and 14 others.
The BEPZ is a significant contributor to the national economy with an export value estimated at Rs. 134 billion ($ 849 million) and importing Rs. 58 billion ($ 368 million) worth of raw materials. In 2017 25,661 workers were employed at the BEPZ. Many leading enterprises are located at the BEPZ including Ansell, Trelleborg, De La Rue, MAS, Noyon and Stretchline.
Given the importance of the Zone 20,000 metric ton of water are consumed by the industries and the facility has a water treatment plant. There is also power supplied to the BEPZ.
In addition there are 5 km of bitumen coated roads. One of the challenges that the Zone faces today is how to dispose of the solid waste in a sustainable way and steps are being taken to introduce a new system in June. Also approximately 10,000 vehicles enter the Zone daily. Efforts have been made to reduce the congestion at the BEPZ.Minister Malik Samarawickrama thanked the investors for their contribution especially in the area of employment and exports. He stated that Sri Lanka's target is to export $ 17.1 billion worth of goods and services in 2018. While FDI had reached $ 1.9 billion, the target for 2018 was $ 2.1 billion. He appreciated the efforts of the BOI officials in making this possible and thanked the Chairman and Board members for the direction they had provided. He said, 'We have made efforts to change the mindset at the BOI.' Furthermore the Minster said that the last three years 3,000 workers had been hired at the BEPZ despite concerns of a difficulty in finding workers.
Samarawickrama mentioned the training of youth to work in factories. The Minister also added that the German Government will set up a new technical centre in Matara to train youth in technical areas, so that they may contribute by working in the industry.
He also stated that such a centre had already been developed by Germany at Kilinochchi. The Minister asserted that the Government is keen to bringing in new technology and was taking steps to improve the ease of doing business. He added that by the end of this year all the reforms would be in place.
Minister Samarawickrama stated that the present Government Development Plan was focused on attracting FDI and also boosting the private sector. He spoke of the plan in the country to set up three to four new zones at Mirijjawila, Millenniya, (with Thai collaboration), Bingiriyain Kurunegala and Mawathagama. Furthermore there would also be a possibility of a new Zone in Weligama.
He added that no new Zone had been built since 2002. Hence this was a pressing need for the country. Appealing to the investor community the Minister concluded by saying, 'Please send this message to investors in your country if you sincerely believe that Sri Lanka is making the right steps in attracting and facilitating investments in the country.'
BOI Director General Duminda Ariyasinghe stated when speaking to the investors, 'We are doing our best to meet your needs. We want to manage the Zone in a very dynamic way. We are private sector orientated and move fast.' The Director General also stated that a screening committee had been established to look at every issue and provide a solution. 'Within 24 hours a solution is brought to issues. The BOI is now an evolving organisation. We are also focusing on reinvestments and had a very successful visit to Switzerland and Italy to look at reinvestment by enterprises.'
Speaking on behalf of the Investors at the BEPZ, Andrew Hydes Director and Head of Operations Sri Lanka of De La Rue spoke of this company's experience as an investor in Sri Lanka. In 1984 De La Rue was registered in Sri Lanka as a BOI enterprise. Their first contract was to print 50 million rupees worth of bank notes for the Central Bank of Sri Lanka. Hydes said that now 88% of the production of bank notes by De La Rue is exported to countries in South America, Asia and Africa. Hydes further said that what BOI offers the investors is security, environmental support and paperwork and investor services and thanked the BOI in that connection.
The investors at the BEPZ shared some of their thoughts on their operation at the Zone. Stretchline Holdings Ltd. CEO Timothy Speldewinde stated, 'We are very happy from the last 22 years we have been at the BEPZ. However, we would like to see the matter of solid waste also addressed by converting it to valuable energy. Overall we have built over the years a relationship of trust with the BOI and BEPZ is a pleasant Zone to be based in.' Andrew Hydes added, 'De La Rue are very happy with our relationship and look forward to future projects. The previous 30 years have been very successful and we look forward to the future.'
The Minister and officials are also met with the Zone workers, Trade unions representatives and thereafter visited two factories at BEPZ, North Manufacturing Ltd., and Lanka Harness Ltd.
© Pakistan Press International, source Asianet-Pakistan