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Life & Times of Nahil Wijesuriya

Posted on 17 October 2017 by admin

In the home of Nahil Wijesuriya.

Nahil Wijesuriya has owned and lived in many homes. His instinct drives him to look at each home as an investment property.

By Valli Thangarajah – Courtesy: ECHELON MAGAZINE.

Published on February 13, 2015.


Nahil Wijesuriya stands at the window of his penthouse atop one of Colombo’s exclusive residential high-rise condominiums admiring the sweeping city skyline. His gaze focuses on the IBM building complex at Nawam Mawatha. It belonged to him 30 years ago when he was IBM’s first dealer. Turning around he points to a large faded photograph of the building placed near his sofa, and explains that there used to be coconut trees around the property when he pioneered the development. “Within months the land around us that belonged to George Stuarts was sold when we initiated construction.” The IBM office building changed hands but the photo remains, thus rekindling memorable moments of some of the entrepreneurial highlights in Nahil’s life.


Nahil remains one of the few who can look at the Colombo skyline, point at high-value real estate dotting the skyline and claim some ownership past or present.

The penthouse on the 24th floor of the Crescat Condominium next to the Cinnamon Grand Hotel has been his home for the past eight years. One of his favourite places in the four-bed room penthouse is the enormous glass window that gives him a view of the changing city skyline.

Having renounced his Sri Lankan citizenship ten years ago for a Singaporean one, he has built a property portfolio in Singapore. He looks at the Beira Lake and talks in earnest about the way, 15 years ago, he turned the waters of the Beira Lake from Algae ridden green to blue through a complex irrigation system at his own expense. Defence Secretary Gothabaya Rajapaksa spoke to him last week about restarting the cleaning process. To him it is just another technical problem that needs to be resolved and it won’t be long before the residents of Colombo have a blue lake.

His residence is the gravitational centre for the ideas in Nahils’s head. Taking a novel idea and getting it moving keeps him charged. He has a deceptively simple and modest lifestyle. But his mind is that of an aggressive and gifted businessman who has celebrated some of the most talked about commercial deals in Sri Lanka. His life, he maintains, has always been an open book with nothing to hide. His distaste for a lavish lifestyle shows in his living space which is more a functional and familiar personal space than an ostentatious billionaire’s showpiece. ‘’ I don’t have to make a statement with my home” he says “as I come from a great school and a close-knit family.” Nahil grew up in Kandy and was the only boy. His older and younger sisters live in London and both are doctors. London was also a base for Nahil for some time.

Also unique is the number of homes he has lived in over 70 years. “When my daughter was 12, she said ‘Dad, we have lived in 14 homes and three countries”. He says the only real estate that is not for sale is the house in which he grew up in Kandy, which has the family burial grounds. A caretaker looks after it and it is mostly used by his friends. “The property where the Emirates embassy on Flower Road now stands used to be my house.” he says with a twinge of nostalgia. He remembers replicating the arches at the front of the house from a hotel in Chiang Mai with great care and detail to the point of working with the workers to get it right. For Nahil everything has to be hands on. He recollects the house being a grand and beautiful home. The house did not have a garden and so he bought the property next door, which belonged to Mr Fernando, at the time the owner of Asiri Hospitals, and demolished it to create a garden.

“My sister called me from London and said you are the only man who will bring a house down to create a garden, when everyone else is building houses in their garden.”

Over a cup of tea brought by his housekeeper, Nahil looks around his present home where he now lives with one of his sons and gazes round like a man seeing it for the first time. He walks over to a wall in the dining room covered in old photographs of his children mostly taken on funfilled holidays. He looks back fondly on those trips and claims the secret of keeping children happy on holidays is to invite their friends along too. The pride in his children is obvious. All of them have graduated from top UK universities. The piano in the corner is stacked with more framed photographs. “Those were placed there by my motherin-law. She came in one day with a load of framed photographs and insisted on placing them, she wanted to bring in a more personal feel, I think.”

Married and divorced three times the current lack of feminine touches is glaringly evident. A beautiful picture of the Goddess Saraswathi catches the eye only for the reason that it seems out of place. “That could be 40 years old and was brought in to the house by my first wife – I have always placed it in the most prominent place in all the many houses that I have lived in.”

A couple of paintings, most of them painted by friends, adorn the wall. Nahil’s home would be a dream project for an interior designer or a wife, both of which are far from his mind. A man of simple taste his distaste for an extravagant, lavish lifestyle is evident in the preference for functional use of space rather than over the top luxury.

Friends are important and his social life revolves around a group, some of who go back to his days at Trinity College. “I hardly entertain, I get invited out a lot. To entertain at home you need a wife and my daughter does not live with me anymore, having recently moved to her own place. She arranges dinners with my close relatives and the occasional birthday celebration. I have lots of friends who drop in when I am home and I travel around with friends and everyone has their place in my life.”

“We like to live modestly and low-key” he says. We means sharing space with younger son Vijitha. His older son Vajira who is married now resides in the United Kingdom and daughter Anika recently moved out of the house saying she needed her own space. He drives a Toyota Land cruiser that he has had for 26 years. “I have had my share of Porsches and BMWs in the UK. I also never fly business class if I can help it.”

“I recollect the time when I got on a flight from London one summer in a pair of Bata slippers. I had forgotten to wear shoes in the rush to catch the flight and Sarath Amunugama was on the same flight and on the seat next to me, and he said, ‘I say Nahil, you have forgotten your shoes.” “I had met many of my wealthy associates at the rear end of the plane,” he laughs. He also owned a Cargo Carrier aircraft that he named Air Lanka International making sure it did not clash with the identity of the national carrier.

“We did over 100 round trips carrying Cargo from Colombo to Male, Sharjah and Chennai. It was a test run with the idea of starting a passenger airline. It was closed down when the UNP was not able to cancel the monopoly held by Emirates. Buying sports cars, splurging on expensive things are not for me”, he says. However, he recently purchased two new vehicles with air bags more for safety reasons because he frequently travels on the highways. For a man who owned a Television Station once, his own TV screen is a modest sized one.

Getting a novel idea to work gets his adrenaline going. His simple lifestyle and engaging and unpretentious personality hides the astute mind of an aggressive and successful businessman who has celebrated some of the biggest commercial deals. Avuncular and talkative, he is constantly thinking about the next good idea that he can explore.

Nahil’s latest venture is a computer numerical controlled three axis router which he has set up with his son Vijitha in his warehouse in Peliyagoda to produce lattice panels for his guestrooms at the Weligama Bay Marriott. “Producing it myself is saving me $ 1000 a room. The machine cost me only $ 7000. For 200 rooms, that is a lot of money saved and it brings new technology to the country.”

“I am a hands on guy. I like to get my hands dirty. Each time I have delegated something to someone I have lost money. Having roamed the seas and the world as a marine engineer, I have learnt not to delegate. On a ship you are not able to phone someone and say can you fix this problem for me. You have to do it yourself and that has stayed with me even after my foray into the business world.”

In his thirty years of business his son feels he could have scaled to greater heights if not for his reluctance to delegate. “Of course they like my aggressive approach to work,” Nahil adds.

Charming and gracious he is known to have been extremely generous to all his ex-wives. “The joke is that I am a better ex-husband than a husband.” In the line of work he does not suffer fools gladly. He has a reputation for being forthright and blunt,” I don’t have time or patience to be nice. My children are far more civilized. They tell me sometimes, if you have anything nasty to say please email it to us and we will soften it and send it on.”

Yet on occasions he has finalized deals with just a handshake with friends and colleagues. “In business I am not avaricious. Money has to be made on good ideas. All my past businesses were based on unique ideas from shipping and bunkering, salvage & towage with my own tugs. Our first business was the shipping agency. That led to the first off port container freight station and the transport of 40 foot containers”.

700_0261ETV – Extra Terrestrial Vision, the broadcast station he started, became the first twenty-four hour TV Station in the country. There was also the IBM dealership and the first hotel he bought, the Ceylon Intercontinental.

Nahil purchased the Intercontinental from then owner Kumar Sharma on an impulse after a conversation. “Our sons were classmates at school.” He asked Sharma only two questions “Any debt?” Sharma said “no, we have a surplus.” Nahil asked him “How much do you want?” and that was that. There was no legal and financial due diligence done. With 97% of Ceylon Continental Hotel shares under his belt he ran it for two years. Nahil recalls his thinking at that time – for the value of six of his apartments in Singapore he can buy a 250 key hotel on 4.5 acres of prime Colombo real estate. “It must be a deal,” he concluded.

Having made the acquisition during the war, he eventually sold the hotel at a valuation of $250,000 per key and capital gains of over 100% after running it for two years.“I made some good money on this.”

“Interestingly, one day I met President Mahinda Rajapaksa who had come to the hotel for a wedding or conference and was coming out of the lift. He said “I heard you are trying to sell the hotel, don’t do it, in another three months the price will go through the roof.” “I took his advice – the war was over – and I made a packet. Best Investment advice I have ever received! Puts my Stock and Bank advisers in the shade!”

When his children showed interest in continuing the hotel business, the family began looking for a site out of Colombo. The battle to remove the minimum room rates for Colombo hotels was disillusioning and the decision to go away from the city was made. Having since sold off most other businesses, his latest venture is to replicate his love for real estate and put his wealth into hotels. Nahil’s current project is a 200 room upscale five star hotel to be managed by the international hotel chain Marriott. It is to be opened in Weligama Bay by mid-2015. Targeting the Indian, Chinese and European markets, he hopes to attract tourism to the Weligama Bay area and no expense is being spared to build a true international standard five star resort.

His two sons Vajira and Vijitha and daughter Anika are all involved, working hands on in the current hotel project.

“The knowledge and education my children are acquiring from their involvement in the hotel will be invaluable to them. We are one of the few companies building a hotel from scratch and we are doing almost everything in-house. I also have a policy on my children’s monthly remuneration; they are the lowest paid in the company as they do not seem to need much to live on. They too have a simple lifestyle.”

Once completed, plans are underway to source more sites to build another five hotels for management by Marriott International.Having dared to venture where most failed Nahil’s sixth sense in business has seen him get involved in many varied enterprises. By building, acquiring and selling businesses that have sometimes been started from scratch, going against the system and beating it, finding loopholes to work around a problem or outsmarting a business competitor is his mantra for living.

His first millions were made from the shipping agency that he as Chief Engineer on Ships and his partner Captain Lester Weinman formed. “In three years we became the largest agency. When working on the ship we used to sit and complain about the inadequate agents we had to keep dealing with everywhere and decided to make that our own business. There was a change of government in 1977. Being young, foolish and driven we took on all the challenges that the others refused. We transported some of the toughest cargos, hauling heavy equipment and of course got paid for it handsomely.”

In 1993, he started Extra Terrestrial Vision (ETV), transmitting programmes taken off satellites. The first TV licenses were issued to MTV, ETV and TNL. “I had a license but didn’t have permission to pick up the satellite signals. When we began transmitting the satellite signals, the lines over international boundary rights were still blurred. My question when they protested about us transmitting their programmes here was; just because their antenna went 30,000 miles in the air where our regulators can’t reach them did not give them the right to transmit over Sri Lankan airspace.” Lakshman Kadirgamar defended Nahil over the supposed infringement of intellectual property rights. A statue of the former minister commissioned by Nahil stands at the Liberty Plaza round-about today.

700_0251His friendship with schoolmate Gamini Dissanayake came at a price when President Premadasa shut down ETV. “The background to that, I was told, was because my business competitor had asked him. ‘Do you want Nahil who is a friend of Gamini Dissanayake, who had tried to have you the President impeached, to run a TV station?’ ETV was sealed for nearly a year. After President Premadasa died, Nahil went to his successor President D B Wijetunge who said “I know, I know”. He took the phone and asked the minister in charge to remove the ban. “This was even before I could utter two words. What a man!” I had fun for two years but got bored with it and sold it off, making a 400% gain on the sale but not before fighting a short legal battle with Star TV over transmission rights for rebroadcasting their channels. In order not to create a precedent in the region they eventually settled and I had to pay a token $1 a year for the right to rebroadcast their channels to drop the case.”

Nahil looks bemused at the mention of hobbies; time for leisure and lifestyle options are open only to the wealthy and elite, he thinks. He remembers his children telling him they wanted to take a gap year after school, “I told them that sounds more like a nap year.” He confesses to enjoying a good Indian curry and a beer. Indulging in food is limited because of age. “I am knocking 70 and may have another 10 years at the most if I eat properly – the doctors say.” “I travel only for business. You will not catch me jetting off on a holiday and sitting under a coconut tree having a pink gin.” His heart is where his friends are and unfortunately they have all left, with only a few still around. He is passionately involved with his old school, Trinity College. Old school photos and diplomas are displayed on the living room wall by a teak cabinet.

Despite living in Singapore, Nahil emphasizes that Sri Lanka is not just a base for business. Having a name like Wijesuriya, “I can’t say I am a dyed in the wool Singaporean.” He likes his curries, the lifestyle and friends here. He has no intention of living anywhere else. “The world is a global village today and one would need to move camp only for tax purposes.”

“I travel for business, for picking up ideas and knowledge.” The financial aspects of business and tools for leverage in business interests him. He also reads about business and Bloomberg is his default TV Channel. “As a businessman you must have a burning desire for knowledge.” With a disarming chuckle over the stories of his famous acquisitions, deals and legal battles, Nahil settles back in a comfortable large cream coloured sofa, happy to talk about some of the better known battles in the business world. Some of his more famous ones were with Asian Hotels and Properties Limited (AHPL), developers of ‘Crescat Residencies’ and ‘The Monarch’. When he bought his first apartment at Crescat, the developers were still building Monarch next door. A hoarding carried an advertisement that said the Monarch was being built higher than the Crescat Residencies.“Going through my deed I noticed that one of the conditions was that all three buildings once built would have the same number of floors once they were completed. The three projects were planned as one. When I mentioned that to the executives of the company they retorted that point was not relevant. Of course I insisted it was.” “Not that I cared so much about it being so much higher. It gave me an opportunity to use it as a matter of leveraging my position for the benefit of this condominium because we were having another battle with them on another issue so I used this as leverage to settle that.”

“They too quite rightly didn’t give a damn about it as these property cases can go on for over 15 years but since I had lodged a caveat in the land registry highlighting there is a case pending on this particular complex, they found it a little difficult to sell the apartments above the 24th floor. Any potential buyer that did a land register check came up against this unresolved item. That was only to put pressure on these guys.” Nahil eventually won for the Condominium Association Rs 50 million and an additional Crescat apartment and walked away with another victory – this time as charity.

“Be sure you do these unusual things only with nice people who will not come and shoot you,” he advises. He meets many of his adversaries. “We still have a laugh over a drink.” Work and more work is actually all play in Nahil’s approach to entrepreneurship.


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Rajah Abeyasinghe re-elected president, Sri Lanka Italy Business Council

Posted on 02 July 2017 by admin


Sri Lanka-Italy Business Council AGM

The Sri Lanka – Italy Business Council of the Ceylon Chamber of Commerce held its 18th Annual General Meeting at the Ceylon Chamber of Commerce on 22nd June 2017. His Excellency Paolo Andrea Bartorelli, Italian Ambassador to Sri Lanka was the Chief Guest at this occasion.

D. R. P Abeyasinghe, Chief Executive Officer, Hydromec International (Pvt) Ltd was re-elected as the President of the Council. Mr. Abeyasinghe has a Mechanical Engineering background.  The latter part of his career however has been devoted to the marketing and commercial aspects of dealing in Earth Moving and Materials Handling Machinery and Equipment.

Abeyasinghe in his address highlighted the achievements of the Sri Lanka – Italy Business Council during the year 2016-2017 under his leadership. These included the organization of meetings with Italian Business delegations that visited the country during the period under review, including the Business Delegation that had accompanied the Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of Italy Hon. Benedetto Della Vedova on his official visit to Sri Lanka. A Breakfast Meeting with Mr. Upul Jayasuriya, Chairman, Board of Investment of Sri Lanka; Annual Members’ Night and the Italian Language Course run for Beginners & Advanced Learners were also highlighted.

His Excellency Paolo Andrea Bartorelli in his comments made at the Annual General Meeting reassured the Council of the continued support of the Italian Embassy in Sri Lanka to promote bilateral trade between Sri Lanka and Italy.

Mrs. Sonali Liyanamana, Chief Executive Officer, Interglobe – Worldlink Air Services (Pvt) Ltd, and Mr. Anushka Polonowita, General Manager, Euro Sports Auto Lanka (Pte) Ltd., Subsidiary of Micro Holdings (Pvt) Ltd. were elected Vice Presidents of the Council.

A Baur & Co. Ltd., Ally Weerasinghe Ltd, DFCC Bank PLC, JAT Holdings (Pvt) Ltd., Lanka Tiles PLC, Spear International (Pvt) Ltd., The Autodrome PLC, Walkers Tours Ltd. were elected from the membership to serve on the Executive Committee of the Council.


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Posted on 17 June 2017 by admin


Courtesy: Sunday Observer.

‘Sri Lanka Economic Summit 2017,’ organized by the Ceylon Chamber of Commerce, will be held on July 25 and 26 at the Cinnamon Grand Hotel, Colombo.

The two-day summit, which will be held under the title of ‘Execute – Transform – Realize’ will have eight thematic sessions, focusing on economic transformation through policy reforms, domestic and global economic headwinds and also how Sri Lanka can adapt to changing scenarios and succeed in a competitive environment.

During the two days, over 40 resource persons, consisting of high profile Cabinet ministers, policy makers, business leaders and academics will take their seats to share insights and also make recommendations on how Sri Lanka can transform its economy to realize its true potential by the right execution of plans.

The economic event is being held at a time, where Sri Lanka’s economy is navigating through a period of transformation, amidst global turbulence.

Growth has moderated, amidst a fiscal consolidation effort that promises macroeconomic resilience in the medium term.

Hence, executing transformational strategies will be essential to realize the economy’s true potential, a media release from the Chamber said.

The event is supported by some of the best corporate firms in the country. Sunshine Holdings PLC is the Platinum Sponsor, Standard Chartered Bank enters the fray as the Gold Sponsor, Fonterra Brands, the Silver Sponsor and Dialog Axiata, the Telecommunications Partner of the event.

Whilst Janashakthi Insurance, Prima Group, and Nestle Lanka join in as the strategic partners. OMD of OmniCom Media Group is the communications partner. 


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Canada notes strength and depth of relationship with Sri Lanka

Posted on 14 June 2017 by admin

Canada has noted the strength and the depth of its relationship with Sri Lanka.

The High Commission of Canada, as Patron of the Sri Lanka Canada Business Council (SLCBC), hosted the 26th Annual General Meeting (AGM) of the SLCBC. A key stakeholder in strengthening the existing bilateral relations between Sri Lanka and Canada, the SLCBC operates under the aegis of the Ceylon Chamber of Commerce and engages with the High Commission of Canada to further enhance trade ties between the two countries.

The High Commissioner of Canada, Shelley Whiting, speaking at the event stated that ‘the Sri Lanka Canada Business Council has been a longstanding partner of the High Commission in promoting Trade. I look forward to innovative initiatives that will showcase the Council’s activities in Sri Lanka and add value to its membership’. She further noted the strength and the depth of relationship between the two countries, the market potential in Sri Lanka and the country’s growth and the opportunities to further trade ties.

Addressing the members, the newly elected President Harith Jayasuriya, Director/Chief Marketing Officer, MAC Holdings (Pvt) Ltd thanked Chandev Abhayaratne, the outgoing President, for the immense contribution made towards the growth of Sri Lanka Canada Business Council during the last 2 years.

Jayasuriya highlighted the Council’s main objectives as to promote Bilateral Trade, Investment, Technical & Economic Co-Operation, Tourism and Services between Sri Lanka and Canada. He further stressed the need for SLCBC to take leadership in promoting investment and trade initiatives between Sri Lanka and Canada.

The AGM was followed by a networking reception for the local business community, stakeholders in the government and international organizations. The key note address of the evening was delivered by Ms. Jeevani Siriwardena, Director General of the Export Development Board (EDB) of Sri Lanka on the agreement between the EDB with Canada’s Trade Facilitation Office (TFO). TFO is a non-government organization in Canada working to source products from developing countries, such as Sri Lanka, and supporting small and medium scale enterprises. The presentation focussed on the nature of the agreement, opportunities such as market orientation programs and market visits, and how Sri Lankan companies can avail themselves of the benefits of the agreement.

The membership of the Sri Lanka Canada Business Council is comprised of approximately 60 companies across diverse sectors such as logistics and tourism, imports, exports, manufacturing and services amongst many others. The primary focus of the Council is to facilitate trade between Sri Lanka and Canada, encourage partnerships, exchange of information between the two countries and promote investments. The Business Council also engages with partner organizations in Canada to promote the socio-economic conditions in Sri Lanka.

The event is supported by the Trade Commissioner Service (TCS) of the Canadian High Commission in Sri Lanka. The TCS is the Canadian government’s network of Trade professionals that promotes Canadian goods and services, facilitates innovation and R&D, as well as builds networks between Sri Lanka and Canada.

Courtesy: Colombo Gazette.


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World Export Development Forum – 12-13 October, 2016, Colombo, Sri Lanka

Posted on 21 September 2016 by admin

wedfWEDF 2016 – Trade for Success: Connect, Compete, Change!

12-13 October 2016, Colombo, Sri Lanka.

The 16th edition of the World Export Development Forum (WEDF) in Colombo, Sri Lanka, helps businesses to navigate the new trade and development landscape.

WEDF is a unique global conference and business-to-business (B2B) matchmaking platform dedicated to supporting trade-led development.

As the flagship event of the International Trade Centre (ITC), WEDF brings together over 600 business leaders, policymakers, heads of trade and investment support institutions and international trade development officials to address international competitiveness for developing countries.

This 16th edition of WEDF is co-hosted by ITC and the Ministry of Development Strategies and International Trade of Sri Lanka, through the Sri Lanka Export Development Board (EDB).

ITC is the only United Nations organization focusing exclusively on small and medium-sized businesses, which are now recognized as a cornerstone for development by the United Nations as well as by the G7 and the G20.

ITC helps small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) grow and compete internationally, building on business opportunities.

Sri Lanka, a hub for South Asia

With an average GDP growth of 6.7% over the past several years, Sri Lanka offers new trade and investment opportunities at a strategic location at the crossroads of important maritime routes of the Indian Ocean.

The high-performing economy is underpinned by a skilled, educated workforce. Many multinationals have a home in Sri Lanka.

Over 80% of Sri Lankan businesses are SMEs. They feature prominently in Sri Lanka’s economic blueprint, which sets out ambitious goals to create one million new jobs through wider participation in the global economy

EDB is the key agency that promotes linkages between Sri Lankan businesses and international markets and partners.

Why attend WEDF 2016?

WEDF 2016 is designed for decision makers that drive business innovation and internationalization.

Meet us in Sri Lanka for high-level panel discussions, practical workshops and B2B meetings to:

  • Get the latest on consumer trends, business strategies and trade policies to navigate today’s trade environment;
  • Connect with experts on trade issues such as standards, trade facilitation and logistics;
  • Find solutions to overcome key trade barriers and increase competitiveness;
  • Sign new business deals with partners from Sri Lanka and around the world.

New realities for international business

The consumers of tomorrow are shifting.

By 2030, two thirds of the middle class will be in Asia, 14% in Europe, and 7% in North America, according to the Brookings Institution. Africa, too, is changing fast. The African Development Bank reports that Africa now has the fastest-growing middle class, with almost 35% of Africa’s population. This is double what it was less than 20 years ago.

As a result, trade patterns continue to change. There are growing transactions within and between the South, such as between Asia and East Africa, and Latin America or between African countries themselves. This trade will continue to be anchored within regional and international value chains.

The nature of the consumer is also transforming. Consumers increasingly emphasize quality, standards and labour and human rights in their purchases of goods and services. There is greater attention on transparency and traceability within value chains. The way that consumers purchase and consume goods and services is also changing, with technological innovations and falling transportation costs.

The economic power of women and youth has yet to be tapped. This ‘third billion’ of women, including entrepreneurs and young consumers, are becoming viable economic actors in the new business reality.

Trade and business policies must transform to meet these new realities. The continued dispersal of production, a focus on reducing non-tariff barriers to trade, and the implications of private standards will dominate the trade topography. The balancing act between the multilateral trading system and megaregional trade agreements will also define the landscape.


As megaregional agreements such as the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership and the Trans-Pacific Partnership emerge, the voice of business is essential to shape competitiveness strategies. Trade facilitation and logistics remain key drivers of improved connectivity.


Digital technologies are reshaping how we trade, opening up new opportunities to compete in the global economy.

Entreprises can reach new consumers around the world directly, and integrate more quickly and higher up the value chain, thanks to e-commerce and technologies such as 3D printing.


Standards have become a gateway for businesses to enter international markets. Certification of standards and regulations may include technical specifications required by producers in the supply chain or health, social or environmental standards demanded by consumers or governments.

Talk Business, Do Business

B2B meetings will be facilitated in the following sectors: Information and Communications Technologies (ICTs); tourism; specialty food, including tea and spices; processed food; apparel; rubber and manufacturing.

At WEDF 2015, organizations signed declarations of intent valued at US$ 80 million.

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SRI LANKA: Rs. 8.7 billion tender to construct four pipelines

Posted on 01 August 2016 by admin


The Government will next week award a tender valued at more than Rs. 8.7 billion for the construction of four pipelines to carry oil from the Colombo harbour’s Dolphin Pier to Kolonnawa. Bidders from India, Malaysia, China and the United States have been shortlisted to construct the pipelines, each six-and-a-half kilometres long, to replace the 69-year-old oil pipelines in use, Ceylon Petroleum Corporation (CPC) Chairman T.C. Jayasinghe said.

The Cabinet has given approval for the project and the tender will be awarded to the lowest bidder by the tender board on Friday, he said. Two pipelines are for jet and crude oil while the others are for refined petrol and diesel. “The existing pipelines are old and their capacity is less; hence, the transportation of oil takes long resulting in the CPC having to pay demurrage at times. There are also leaks in some places leading to wastage,” he explained.

The pipelines would run underground so there would be no logistical issues such as having to relocate people. The project was likely to be completed in one-and-a-half years, he said. Mr. Jayasinghe said the company which won the tender would have to undertake the US$ 60 million (Rs 8.7 billion) project using its own funds which the government would pay back in 12 years after a three-year grace period.

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Ceylon Chamber lines up a top panel to discuss PPP

Posted on 20 June 2016 by admin


‘Sri Lanka Economic Summit 2016,’ organized by the Ceylon Chamber of Commerce has lined up a top panel of experts from both the public and the private sector to discuss opportunities existing for Public Private Partnerships (PPPs) in the country.

The panel discussion, titled ‘Private Public Partnerships – Getting Them Done, Getting Them Right,’ will be conducted at the session two of the summit which will be held on August, 2016 in Colombo.

Eran Wickramarathne, Deputy Minister of State Enterprises and Entrepreneurship, Gajendra Haldea, Advisor to the Government of Rajasthan, India, who once Headed the Secretariat for PPP and Infrastructure in the Planning Commission of India and Kamal Dorabawila, Principal Investment Officer ofthe IFC, who is responsible for its investments in energy and Infrastructure in the South Asian region will deliver the keynote speeches at the session.

Following the speeches, the trio will join Romesh David, President of the Transportation Group of John Keells Holdings PLC and Thilan Wijesinghe, Chairman, TWCorp, who will sit for a panel discussion, which would be moderated by Helani Galpaya, CEO of LIRNEasia, a pro-poor, pro-market think tank.

The session on PPPs is held in the backdrop of rising public spending of Sri Lanka, amidst low tax revenue. Experts says, PPPs are the best solution, the Sri Lankan government can adopt to meet infrastructure and other needs. PPPs are now recognized for their ability meet public policy challenges with private sector solutions. The Sri Lanka Economic Summit 2016 is held under the title of 'Focus. Act. Deliver’ and is expected to attract over 400 executives.

Eran Wickramarathne, Deputy Minister of State Enterprises and Entrepreneurship – Keynote speaker and panelist


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High level Austrian business delegation in Colombo

Posted on 10 May 2016 by admin

BUSINESSFollowing the successful state visit of President Maithripala Sirisena to Austria in February and his meeting with business leaders, the Austrian Federal Economic Chamber is sending a 20 member High Level Business Delegation to Colombo to explore prospects for investment and enhanced trade. The delegation will be in Colombo from May 9 to14.

According to the Sri Lankan embassy in Vienna, said that the Austrian delegation, comprising businessmen from health care, hydraulic energy production electro-mechanical equipment and Services, waste-water management systems solutions in the fields of municipal drinking water and sewerage treatment, sea water de-salination, waste & energy management, irrigation technology, plant, pipeline apparatus and vessel and tank construction, communication and information systems for safety, welding suppliers and metal work will comprise the delegation. 

The Austrian Federal Economic Chamber has organized the visit in collaboration with the Austrian Trade Commissioner in New Delhi and the Sri Lanka Embassy in Vienna.  The Austrian Business Delegation will hold meetings with their Sri Lankan counterparts and there will also be a networking session with businessmen hosted by the Ceylon Chamber of Commerce.  The Delegation is scheduled to call on Cabinet Ministers and Senior Government Officials.

Austria is Sri Lanka's  5th largest trading partner in Europe. Total exports to Austria in 2015 amounted to US$ 28.09 million.

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Sri Lanka to host World Export Development Forum 2016

Posted on 06 May 2016 by admin

ForumDevelopment Strategies and International Trade Minister Malik Samarawickrama yesterday uses a gavel gifted by the International Trade Centre to mark the countdown for the World Export Development Forum slated for October this year. ITC Executive Director Arancha González, Industry and Commerce Minister Rishad Badurdeen, Development Strategies and International Trade State Minister Sujeewa Senasinghe and EDB Chairperson Indira Malwatte look on – Pic by Upul Abayasekera

The World Export Development Forum (WEDF), the flagship event of the Geneva-based International Trade Centre (ITC) will be held in Colombo, on 12-13 October 2016. 

The announcement was made yesterday by Minister of Development Strategies and international Trade Maiik Samarawickrama. ITC Executive Director Arancha Gonzalez and Export Development Board Chairperson lndira Malwatte. Previous editions of WEDF have been held in Doha, Qatar (2015), Kigali, Rwanda (2014), Jakarta, Indonesia (2012), Istanbul, Turkey (2011) and Chongqing, China (2010).

Over 300 foreign delegates are expected along with an equal number of local participants. 

“ITC is extremely pleased that Sri Lanka and the Sri Lanka Export Development Board (EDB) will be hosting this year’s WEDF in Colombo,’ Ms. Gonzalez said. “With its central position in South Asia, at the crossroad of the Indian Ocean, Sri Lanka has risen steadily to become a regional business hub. Convening the global trade and development community and business representatives in Colombo will provide an excellent opportunity to showcase the best of Sri Lanka and allow us to talk business and do business.”

WEDF will bring together more than 600 policymakers. business leaders, and officials from trade and investment support institutions (TISI) and international organizations to discuss how to achieve sustainable and inclusive economic growth through trade. A series of business-to-business matchmaking events will also be held over the two-day meeting, allowing participants to create business linkages across sectors and across countries.

“Countries like Sri Lanka need to thrive on the export of products and services on the way to create vibrant economies,” Minister Samarawickrama said. “Hence, we are now on a new journey. Our new Government has brought in freedom, democracy, transparency and more importantly confidence on the part of the international business community. The decision by the ITC to hold the WEDF 2016 in Sri Lanka itself is a clear message that we are on the right path, symbolising the international recognition for the business environment that we have created.”

“Our way forward in exports is to go beyond the primary and traditional export basket to higher value innovative and original products and services,” EDB Chief Malwatte said. “EDB interaction with international business partners is crucial at this stage. WEDF B2B sessions are focusing towards achieving these national economic objectives through creating opportunities for entrepreneurs to actively participate in the global supply chain by identifying the competitive roles that we can play,” she added.

The theme of WEDF 2016, ‘Trade for Success: Connect. Compete, Change’, reflects the importance ITC and the Government of Sri Lanka attach to the role of enterprises in trade and job creation in Sri Lanka and elsewhere, SMEs form the backbone of the economy, representing over 90% of all business and contributing to two-thirds of global employment.

WEDF 2016 will focus on hot-button issues shaping business competitiveness, from emerging mega regional trade agreements such as the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership and the Trans Pacific Partnership to the opportunities and risks presented by the rise of the digital economy. Participants will also confront the issue of standards, another crucial element for entering new markets and achieving trade success. 

In the build-up to WEDF 2016, Ms. Gonzalez and Minister Samarawickrama also announced a series of training programs for Sri Lankan growers/producers and exporters on safety and quality standards as well as for young entrepreneurs through ITC’s SME Trade Academy platform. During WEDF 2016 a series of ‘In Focus’ sessions will be held to explore how young entrepreneurs can take their ideas to markets, how to help connect women entrepreneurs to markets. improving managing logistics in the supply chain, and how to go digital.

ITC has a Iong lasting partnership with Sri Lanka. It has supported the development of the private sector in areas such as export strategies, strengthening of trade and investment support institutions, market analysis and research, south-south trade promotion and non-tariff barriers.

Starting mid-2016, ITC will step up its work on trade policy, trade facilitation, and quality and value chain development to increase the competitiveness of Sri Lankan SMEs, including targeted support to women business owners in Sri Lanka.

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Tea Board in Rs 6.8 bn global tea promotion

Posted on 02 May 2016 by admin

The Sri Lanka Tea Board will spend over Rs 4.8 billion for 2016 and a further Rs.2 billion in 2017 to promote Sri Lankan tea globally,Plantations Minister Naveen Dissanayake said.

He was surprised to note that despite having US$ 60 million (around Rs. 9 billion) in the Tea Board promotion ‘kitty’ this amount was hardly used for reasons best known to the Tea Board.

 Minister Dissanayake

“How can you promote a brand like this.Now I have taken the initiative to globally promote tea and will launch a series of events targeting global promotions.”

The first of such events will take place end of May in major cities in China where the Minister himself will lead a delegation.

“I want to follow thisup with several promotions in the Russian Federation breakaway states where there is a demand for Sri Lankan tea.What is needed are promotions in this region which were never looked at before.”

In addition Ogilvy PR has been appointed to undertake the Below the Line (BTL) advertising and the Ministry will appoint several other PR firms for these promotions. Dissanayake said that though R&D is the key for promotions of Tea, Rubber, Coconut and Sugar Cane industries sadly this is a very gray area.

“In bid to have more R&D for these sectors I have also requested US$ 70 million from external funds though several donor agencies to offer to the four sector research centers.”

He said that the Tea Research Institute (TRI) has already launched a tea wine but they are unable to market it due to lack of funds and direction.

“Sri Lanka needs to export tea in a novel way such as iced tea and in value added form. This will attract the younger generation.”

The Minister identified National institute of Plantation Management (NIPM) as another neglected entity. “We are now planning to turn around this institution as a major education body supporting the education of the plantation sector. I am now talking to academics and will soon introduce NVQ level courses from NIPB. My ultimate objective is to make NIPM and NIBM less than one year.”

Commenting on the plantation companies and the wages of employees Dissanayake said that higher wages are one the cards. “This is something due for them.”

Asked if the Minister was keen to introduce tourism to the abandoned bungalows in state plantations he said he must give that thought more time.


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