Sri Lanka has invited Saudi Arabia to set up a petroleum refinery in the southern part of the island, the country’s Central Bank Gov. Arjuna Mahendran said here. In addition to meeting the needs of Sri Lanka, he said such a refinery could tap markets in neighboring countries such as India, Pakistan and Bangladesh.
Mahendran, an economist and a top banker, who was leading a high-powered delegation to the Kingdom, comprising chairmen and CEOs of commercial and state banks in Colombo, ended his Saudi visit on Wednesday.
Mahendran held talks with Saudi Arabian Monetary Agency (SAMA) Gov. Fahad bin Abdullah Al-Mubarak on Tuesday. He said that the proposed refinery could be set up in Hambantota, some 300 miles away from Colombo. Hambantota hosts a full-fledged sea port, which could export crude and refined oil to other countries. He said that international players such as SABIC and Saudi Aramco could easily come into this project. Mahendran also said that Saudi construction companies could participate in infrastructure developments in the island.
“We need more schools, hospitals, houses and elders’ homes,” he said .
To help expatriates working in the Kingdom, Mahendran said he was negotiating with the SAMA governor to enable Sri Lankans’ remittances from Saudi Arabia to reach their banks at home in 60 seconds. “SAMA has responded positively to consider opening the payment gateway to enable this services in a year or two,” he added.
Speaking about Sri Lanka, he said : “A new chapter has opened under the leadership of President Maithripala Sirisena, who maintains inter-ethnic and inter-religious harmony in the country. Two rival parties have joined together in running the government and to work for rapid development. The unity government gives political stability and builds confidence among foreign investors, he said.
The Board of Investments has introduced a package of incentives to viable ventures, he added.
He pointed out that around 550,000 Sri Lankans working in Saudi Arabia remit some SR10 billion annually. According to Saudi officials, Sri Lankan was ranked as the third country in terms of outward remittances to home countries. “Although, we have a tiny population here compared to other countries, law-abiding Sri Lankans send their monies through official channels,” Mahendran said. This is appreciated by the host as well as their country of origin, he added.
Explaining the purpose of his visit, he said the government is interested in projecting its potential and explore new areas of cooperation with the Kingdom. “We are exporting tea for some $800 million to the Kingdom. This could be improved and there are several other areas where the two countries could benefit from viable projects,” he added.
Representatives from leading banks such as Bank of Ceylon, People’s Bank, Commercial Bank, HNB, NDB, Amanah, Seylan Bank, Sampath Bank and Deutsche Bank AG accompanied the governor. (Arab News)