Written by Lahiru Fernando
22 Jan, 2018 | 10:40 pm
The Prime Minister of Singapore Lee Hsien Loong has arrived in Sri Lanka. He arrived upon an invitation extended by President Maithripala Sirisena.
Premier Loong will be received at the Presidential Secretariat tomorrow morning (January 23) with an official guard of honor and gun salute.
This will be followed by official bilateral discussions with President Maithripala Sirisena.
According to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, following the bilateral talks with the President, PM Lee will witness the signing of the Sri Lanka-Singapore Free Trade Agreement.
The visit of PM Lee is a significant one because this is the first official visit of a Singaporean Prime Minister to Sri Lanka in 13 years.
Trade between the two countries
However, In terms of trade in goods, Singapore is not a significant export market of Sri Lanka.
Exports to Singapore in 2015 amounted to US$ 85 Million, or less than 1% of Sri Lanka’s total exports while growth in exports during the last 5 years has been disappointing.
As a source of imports, Singapore was Sri Lanka’s fifth main partner and contributed to 5% of Sri Lanka’s total imports.
In 2015, Sri Lanka imported goods worth US$ 923 mn from Singapore.
With China pouring billions into the island, investing in, among other things, a port and a financial centre, the Free Trade Agreement could be a route for Singapore to further that deficit.
The Free Trade Agreement opens doors for Sri Lanka businesses to take advantage of Singapore’s strategic importance in global trade.
The agreement may also lead to an increase in foreign direct investment from Singapore, which is the fourth largest investor in Sri Lanka.
Singapore’s economy is nearly four times the size of Sri Lanka’s. Conversely, Sri Lanka’s population is close to four times that of Singapore.
In his memoirs, Lee Kuan Yew, the founding Prime Minister of Singapore, said:
“Ceylon was a good middle size country with fewer than 10 million people. It had a relatively good standard of education, with 2 universities of high quality, civil service largely of locals, and experience in representative government starting with city council elections in the 1930s.”
He went on to say…
“During my visits over the years, I watched a promising country go to waste.”
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